Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus (2)

fleeing finding.jpgIn my previous post about this book I mentioned my initial disappointment when it didn’t seem to fulfill my expectations regarding testimonies of Muslims coming to faith in Jesus.

Then I recognised that “finding Jesus” wasn’t only applicable to new converts fleeing their old religious affiliation, but it also applied to professing followers of Jesus who would find a deeper relationship with Him when they faced unimaginable adversity.

My initial expectation was eventually fulfilled, but the hoped for evidence of Muslims finding the truth of Christ was often closely related to existing believers finding that deeper faith, as the security of their past was stripped away.

“For me as a believer, life is even better now than it was before ISIS. There are new opportunities and open doors to speak out loud about Jesus, to talk about Islam. A lot of Muslims are questioning who is God, and you only need to look on the Internet to see so many Muslims saying ‘if that’s God, I don’t want Him anymore.'”

Through the upheaval caused by the brutaility of ISIS and the resulting flight of those in their path, previously insular groups were brought together with a common plight.

…one of the themes that has come out of this displacement is the fact that Christian, Muslim, and Yazidi communities are no longer living in enclaves, isolated from the villages around them.

The brutality of ISIS forced everone to leave their homes and engage with people they had previously avoided…

How easy it is to sit here in the “west” and choose to read a book about Muslims coming to faith in Jesus in the Middle East, being turned against the religion of their birth by the evils they see in ISIS and other extremist groups who claim to embody Islam; as well as the stories of Muslims being pointed towards the truth of Jesus through dreams and visions.
Testimonies like that are encouraging, a joy to read and hear.

What isn’t so easy is taking the time to consider the other part of the story – the part about perecuted Christians, about followers of Jesus losing everything they had, being driven from their homes by the very same ISIS.

And yet those Christians, stripped of material security, play an important part in the aspect of the story we find so encouraging. If we REALLY consider the changes experienced by those believers, and if we considered their experience in light of scripture, and what Jesus said about those who follow Him; we ought to see how closely they fit the biblical descriptions, and how we in the west don’t.

If we could take a step back and dispationately compare the two vastly different Christian experiences which would we see as the most authentically and effectively lived, Christian witness?

“I look at the west and wonder if Satan uses our affluence to limit the growth of the church. I wonder whether his tactic for keeping God out is by providing comfort, by giving so many riches and so much wealth that people feel like they don’t need God.”

“When real persecution happens, you’re not afforded that. You have to call on God multiple times a day. Can you imagine what it does to your faith when you don’t know where the next meal is coming from or if you’re an Iraqi that’s lost a million dollars and two homes and a couple of cars and are sitting in a tent freezing in winter? Maybe that’ll be the first time in your life that you find yourself really calling out to God.”

Most of us here in the west won’t face the loss and tragedy being experienced elswehere, where  evil forces like ISIS, or their inevitable successors, express hatred through killing, stealing and destroying on a massive scale.

But we ought to meditate on the question of our own response if we did have to experience what so many have already faced elsewhere in the world. Would we be able (or willing) to trust God if those things we’d considered to be His blessings were torn away from us?

One thing that makes me think we in the prosperous West might find it difficult to summon up that willingness is the evidence of how even Western “believers” have responded to the plight of those who have been through the experience of losing home, possessions and family through the violence of others elsewhere in the world.

As they flee from the violence, seeking sanctuary in the west, they have ben rejected, shut out, pushed away in fear. Our fear. Fear of the disruption and cost that so many needy refugees would create to our comforatble, established lives.

Towards the end of the book the authors quote an interview related to their topic.

“I think there’s a lot of Christians who, rather than go and fulfill the Great Commission, they said, ‘I think I’ll stay home and pray for the Great Commission.’ And God said, ‘I want you to be part of it, so I’m going to bring the Great Commission to you'”

David Garrison

What has been the reaction of many when God brings the Great Commission to us?

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Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus

fleeing finding.jpgThis book wasn’t exactly what I expected.
I thought it would be about Muslims who fled from ISIS controlled areas, and in the process of fleeing to safety, found faith in Jesus.

That in escaping extremist Islam, their experiences not only made them question their own Islamic faith, but through that experience they came to know the love of God through Christ.

At first I thought the title was misleading because it didn’t fulfil that expectation. However, about halfway through I recognised the title had a different kind of application. That recognition came when reading the story of a man, an Iraqi Christian from a Christian community. He tells of experiencing a change:

“…it was as if someone took away all my sadness and gave me another light shining on me. I started a new relationship with Jesus, and I felt like a new man, a new person. I found my hope in Christ. I began to see that in some ways I lost everything when ISIS came to Qaraqosh, but really I found Jesus.”

A related, significant reality I found expressed in this book, is the gaping disconnect between the lives Christians live in the west, and those lived by believers elsewhere.

The man mentioned above didn’t have anything like the prosperity that the west takes for granted, but when he lost what he had, he found something much more valuable; something he thought he already had – and then with the loss of everything else he recognised a sufficiency and wealth only available through closeness to Christ that he’d not experienced before.

There is a vital lesson to be learned by Christians in the west. A lesson that will challenge the seeming obsession with maintaining and protecting a perceived quality of life that is often attributed to God’s blessing. The price of protecting those “blessings” is often a denial of help to people in need, a failure to share those “blessings”.

The author writes of the generosity of the nation of Jordan, who welcomed so many refugees from neighbouring Syria and Iraq, that refugees now made up one in four of the population.

“If that were the United States, it would be like half of Mexico and all of Canada moving in”

Is it necessary to say anything else to address the difference in attitude displayed by western nations with an alleged strong Christian foundation?

The author continues, describing the hardships that have been created,

“…the influx of people looking for cheap accommodations had caused both rents and the prices of staple goods to rise sharply, making life even harder for Jordan’s population. And yet still they open their doors and invite refugees in.”

On questioning a local about the inconvenience of this, he received the reply “What else can we do? Wouldn’t you do the same?”

Sadly most in the west clearly wouldn’t. And neither would many western “Christians”.

I wonder what it will take for THEM to find Jesus.

 

Stranger No More by Annahita Parsan

It wasn’t what I expected.
The flood of Moslem refugees across Europe was constantly in the news two or three years ago, and most books I’ve recently seen about refugees have been about those escaping from Syria.

I thought this would be the same, but instead the story dates back to the late 1970s, early 80s and the Iranian Revolution.

Annahita Parsan’s abusive husband Asghar found himself on the wrong side of the new Islamic government in Iran after the Ayatollah Khomeini deposed the Shah of Iran. Together they escaped Iran via Turkey, where they were imprisoned and brutally treated. Eventually they were freed and allowed to move on to Denmark as refugees.

Despite the potential for a new life, Asghar’s violence against his wife increased in frequency and intensity and there seemed to be no escape for her.

But a seed was sown when visitors to her door gave Annahita a bible in Farsi.

Ever since I had been given the Farsi Bible, I had picked it up and prayed from time to time. The worse Asghar’s attacks had gotten, the more I had prayed. I found that it helped, much like drinking a glass of cool water took away the dryness in my mouth on a hot night.

She started to become aware of ideas about God that were different to what she had “learned in a mosque”.

There it was all about fear and rules and the difficulty of earning a route to paradise. I had never thought of God being interested in helping me, let alone being with me all the time. I liked the idea. It gave me courage.

In time that courage helped her to take steps towards freedom for herself and her children. Freedom from the violence of her husband and towards the freedom of a new life of faith.

Annahita Parsan now works within churches in Sweden, ministering to former Muslim refugees.

Muslims, Mission and Martyrdom with Dr. Jerry Rankin

I’ve recommended and posted a few audios from this source.

This is one includes another very interesting interview worth the listening time.

The interview starts around the 7 minute 25 second point, after some banter between the podcast presenters.

from:
http://www.zwemercenter.com/zwemer-podcast/page/7/

This audio and the rest in the series can be downloaded from the site at the above link.
I’ve downloaded episodes to a USB stick so I can listen to them in the car on my way to and from work. I find that much more practical than sitting at the computer to hear them.

“Why I Work With Refugees”

I can’t help but wonder about the order of Acts 1:8. How it appears to have reversed.

That instead of going into all the world, the world is coming to us.

Is it a coincidence?

 

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The following from 2009 predates the current situation but is no less relevant today. In fact it’s probably MORE relevant.

 

 

God has high expectations of His people in how they relate to the orphan, the widow and the alien.