What would you say is the most disturbing statement that Jesus ever made?
If you happen to be the purveyor of an oppressive religious system John 8:32 would be high on your list.
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
A classic example of this fear of truth coming to light played out in Afganistan over the last few days.
U.S. Military Accused of Handing Out Bibles in
Arlington, VA — The U.S. Military said that reports from Al Jazeera English that evangelical Christian soldiers in Afghanistan handed out Bibles to local Afghans and operated under instructions from their chaplain to “hunt people for Jesus” grossly misrepresent the truth and that in reality Bibles were confiscated, not handed out.
The Al Jazeera broadcast includes a video taken a year ago in which a small group of U.S. Soldiers at Bagram Air Base are seen discussing what to do with a pile of Bibles printed in the Pashtu and Dari languages. In the video the chaplain points out that it is against the rules to proselytize. “But you can give gifts,” another soldier in the room said.
The Bibles were mailed to a Sgt. James Watt from his hometown church while he was stationed at Bagram.
There is no proof the Bibles were confiscated, “but there is of course no proof they were handed out either”, said U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, Col. Greg Julian.
Julian expressed frustration that stories like these and other controversial issues “may cause locals to lash out,” possibly inciting more violence in the region.
Why would Al Jazeera find the mere act of handing out a Bible such an outrageously offensive act?
Some would say the reaction is cultural and historical.
The notion that US forces constitute a return of the Crusaders to Muslim lands is certainly one that should be avoided at all costs.
There is no way we will be able to defeat the forces of Islamic radicalism without the solid support of the locals.
This was key to success in Iraq and certainly it would be foolish to hand a powerful propaganda tool into the hands of Al Qaida and the Taliban.
But let’s examine this sense of outrage a bit more closely.
Islamic nations as a whole are almost completely closed to Christianity.
Many, including the so-called moderate state of Saudi Arabia, have laws on the books that make conversion to Christianity a death penalty offense.
The obvious question is – what are they so afraid of?
What is it about the mere act of handing out a Bible in the language of the locals that is deemed such a threat?
New York Times Best Selling Author Joel Rosenberg relates the insightful first hand story of Shakir, a former jihadist cell commander who now serves as a Christian pastor in Iraq.
How did this man come to know Jesus?
One day, one of Shakir’s Radical Muslim disciples came to him and said that someone was distributing Bibles to everyone in the machine shop where he worked. The disciple was very angry and told Shakir that he had cursed out everyone in the shop, collected all the Bibles, and promptly destroyed them. All but one.
“He brought one Bible—a New Testament—to me and said I should read it and see how to react to it and counter it,” Shakir explained. He said he praised his disciple for acting quickly and decisively. Then he sent the disciple away and took the Bible home, and that night he began to read the Gospel according to Matthew.
“I read the book very fervently to find all the blasphemies and corruption,” Shakir said. “But I discovered the words started affecting my mind, and my heart started changing. These were powerful words, not human words. They seemed to me like God’s words. But I thought, ‘How could this be?’”
Shakir became deeply troubled. He kept reading through Matthew but was ashamed of himself because rather than finding fault with these Christian Scriptures, he found himself completely intrigued. He had so many questions. But whom could he ask? He couldn’t very well start discussing the life and teachings of Jesus with the members of the terrorist cell group he was leading. He couldn’t very well ask questions of the terrorist leaders above him. He didn’t dare seek out any Christians. So night after night he kept reading the Gospels, searching for answers. The more he did, the more troubled and anxious he became.
“After reading the Bible in a deep way, I began comparing it with the Qur’an,” he told me. “I was so confused, and in my confusion, I began pleading with God, ‘Please show me Yourself.’ I begged God, ‘Please, show me the right way—is it the Qur’an or the Bible?’”
This went on for several nights.
“One night,” he said, “I was really pleading with God fervently to show me the true, straight path. And that night I had a dream. I found myself standing on the side of a road. There was a large crowd gathered on both sides of the road, and they were cheering and very excited. And I realized that they were awaiting a parade to go by. So I looked down the road to see who was coming, and I saw many prophets riding on horses coming towards us. Suddenly Jonah was riding by. And then David. And Abraham. And Moses—riding on high, strong horses. Everyone was cheering and I was cheering. It was so exciting to see these prophets.”
Shakir kept waiting for Muhammad to come riding by as well, but Muhammad never came. He was not in the parade of prophets. Instead, Shakir said that “at the end of the procession, I saw another person riding, but He was riding on a donkey instead of a horse. He was wearing a white robe, and His face was covered by a white shroud. When this person approached, for some reason I heard myself calling out to Him and asking, ‘Are you Jesus?’ Like I said, His face was covered by a white cloth. So I couldn’t really see His face at that moment. But when He heard my question, the man pulled the cloth away from His face and smiled at me and nodded yes.
“Something came from His face that filled me with a joy I had never felt in my whole life. I started shouting, ‘I saw Jesus! I saw Jesus!’ I was so happy and so joyful and I was laughing. But as soon as I woke up, I realized that my pillowcase and my sheets were all wet around my head. I realized that at some point during my dream I had been crying—sobbing—in shame for all of my sins, for all of my hatred.”
Shakir said he found himself overcome with the realization that he had been so wrong about God, about Islam, about terrorism. He also found himself incredibly grateful and humbled that Jesus would come and rescue him and forgive him of all of his sins and set him on the true path to heaven.
“I felt a strong joy, and I wanted to find my Muslim disciples and tell them that I loved them and that Jesus loved them,” Shakir explained. “After that dream, my life was completely changed. I was eager to evangelize—to tell people about the love of Jesus Christ. I couldn’t hide that joy. The more I read of the Gospels, the more I felt I had to tell people about this love of God, even people that I had hated. This was not easy. I was mocked and persecuted by many. Once I was beaten by eight people. I was nearly assassinated three times. But it is okay. Since I came to know the Lord Jesus as my Savior, I am ready to put my life—and my family—as a sacrifice for Jesus.”
You have probably heard that Islam is the fastest growing religion on earth.
There is a reason for this.
Islam has been established in areas of the greatest natural population growth on the planet, and every time a baby is born in those regions he or she is automatically counted as another Muslim.
But even with such demographic advantages, those who oversee Islam are becoming increasingly nervous.
The increasing ability of communications technologies to penetrate previously closed borders is making the truth of God’s Word increasingly available.
Even in our own ministry we see people consistently logging in to listen to the live stream of our daily Bible Q and A program in places like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and even Iran.
God’s Word is going forth.
And the impact is becoming more and more obvious.
In an interview on Al Jazeera, Saudi cleric Ahmad Al Qataani made this eye opening statement:
“In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity,” Al Qataani warned. “Every day, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity.”
What Shakir’s testimony and Al Qataani’s statistics reveal is hard to miss.
God honors His Word.
“ For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
The Bible is the most dangerous book in the world, if you want people to remain in darkness.
But it is also the most liberating, life changing book for those whom God has touched with its truth.
Have you ever stopped to think that this same powerful truth is equally able to change lives here in our country?
Let’s pray that God gives us the opportunity to share His life changing truth in our own personal world today!
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