Reflecting on 2014
Here are my reflections on key events that have deeply impacted the world in 2014. At the beginning of 2014 the United Nations reported they were struggling to cope with unprecedented numbers of people displaced by conflict, mostly in the Middle East. As the year unfolded this humanitarian crisis reached an all time high, fuelled by a continuing worldwide resurgence of Jihadist Muslims, most notably ISIS and Boko Haram.
Researchers noted that the worldwide persecution of Christians during 2013 reached the worst level in recent history. However, things got even worse in 2014! “Islamic violence throughout the world is spawning the most significant increase in the persecution of Christians on record” as quoted in their annual World Watch List just published by Open Doors.
During 2014 Obama continued his three-year policy denying any connection whatsoever between Islam and terrorism. As the war on terror intensified through 2014, it has become increasingly difficult to deny the strong connection between Islam and terrorism. There is now overwhelming evidence that the ideology driving radical Muslims is rooted in the Qur'an and exemplified by Muhammad. The Obama administration is entangled in a web of self deception.
Not only so, the mainstream media is also deceived. Silas, an expert on Islam, has noted, “While Islamic violence grows worldwide ... Western journalists bury their head in the sand and pretend that relationship does not exist.” (Islam for Journalists; see also the article: Whitewashing Islamic Terrorism from Sydney to Jerusalem) This is no surprise for Christians who are aware that the Bible predicts widespread deception in the last days.
While politicians and journalists are covering up the truth, this has not stopped many Muslims from becoming deeply disillusioned with the violence they see as rooted in Islam. Indeed, this is a key factor explaining why more Muslims than ever are turning to Christ.
“Will these trends continue?” Yes, I believe the storm clouds will get darker, not forgetting they have a silver-lining. Scripture says that as Christ's return draws near the world will experience greater anguish and terror than there has ever been throughout human history. (Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12:1-2; Matthew 24:21-22)
But we shouldn't be discouraged because the Bible is full of promises that inspire hope. Scripture tells us over and over again how God intervenes and saves people even when they are in dark, bleak circumstances.
Do you remember how the Israelites felt shortly after leaving Egypt? There they were facing the Red Sea, hemmed in on either side by formidable mountains and behind them Pharaoh's army in hot pursuit. They felt worse than hopeless. They were terrified. But God did the impossible. Yes, indeed, he is mighty to save. He kept his promise and rescued them.
Fourteen hundred years later the Israelites were in another bleak situation, living under an oppressive Roman regime. Furthermore, God hadn't sent any prophet for 400 long years! But once again, God was faithful. He kept his promise by sending his Messiah, not just as a prophet. He came to be their Saviour and ours!
We see another example of how God keeps his promises in the writings of Habakkuk. You'll recall that he faced an agonizing dilemma: "How could the Lord allow Babylonian armies to devastate Israel and take them to captivity, knowing they were more evil and ruthless than the Israelites?"
The prophet Habakkuk acknowledged that God had a right to discipline his disobedient and stubborn people. Then he concluded, “I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us. Even though the fig trees have no blossoms and there are no grapes on the vines ... the fields lie empty and barren ... and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength!” (Habakkuk 3:16-19)
This prayer reminds me of the worship chorus which echoes this principle, “When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say, Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Reflecting on 2014 one wonders, “Is it coincidental that Muslims have dominated the headlines?” Does the Lord intend this as a wake up call to his people to recommit ourselves to complete the Great Commission, especially in regard to reaching the largest and most daunting unreached people, i.e. Muslims?
Joel Richardson, an expert on Islam and Bible prophecy, believes “that Islam is the single greatest challenge that the Church will face before the return of Jesus, yet most are still either asleep or in denial.” (Source)
Let me ask, “What will you do in response to what you've just read?” Is there a refugee (perhaps a Muslim) to whom I can show kindness and pray that God will open a door to introduce Jesus? Should I resolve to pray for those who persecute Christians, as Jesus instructed us? Should I be more prayerful (and supportive of) persecuted Christians?
As mentioned above, Open Doors has just released their annual report of the 50 countries where Christians suffer the most persecution in which they conclude that, “Islamic violence throughout the world is spawning the most significant increase in the persecution of Christians on record.” We must not underestimate how important this is, but the fact is, many 'western' Christians who live in safer zones find it difficult to relate to this. Persecution seems far removed and, therefore, less relevant. We need to ask ourselves some heart-searching questions, “If our brothers and sisters in Christ in other countries are laying down their lives for the sake of the Gospel, what price are we prepared to pay?” Lord, will you search my heart and not let me be complacent. Help me not be reluctant or ashamed to speak of Christ, because I know you haven't given me “a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Below are a few articles that shed more light on the silver lining around the storm clouds. In spite of the terrible trends as noted above, there is a silver lining around the storm clouds. More Muslims have turned to Christ in the last few decades than ever before and a key reason behind this is their disillusionment with the never-ending violence which they see as deeply embedded in Islam.
Below are 5 articles that shed light on this silver lining. Interestingly, there's been a huge increase in the number of downloads of articles explaining the Good News to Muslims. The Gospel continues to be a beacon of hope in the midst of deepening darkness, as we read in John 1:5, “the darkness can never extinguish the light.” More specifically, I've seen 90,000 downloads of my 5 dozen online articles over the last 6 months. Five of these are particularly relevant to the themes in this article so I have listed them here:
Reluctant Messengers, Numbers 33:55-56 > Jeremiah 1:17 > Jonah > Acts 1:8, Persecution: Sign of the Times, A Longstanding Violent Legacy, God's Peace Plan. I am also including two articles by a Middle East analyst, Raymond Ibrahim, entitled, Nearly 200 Christian Churches Destroyed in Surge of Violence and Islamic Violence, the MSM and I.
Shortly after I finished writing the above reflections, Muslim terrorists perpetrated two horrific attacks which underscore my concerns. The first was the much-publicised slaughter of 17 people in France on the 7th of January 2015. The second was a massacre in Baga, Nigeria, by Boko Haram with an estimated death toll of 2,000. As I write, it is almost two weeks since this massacre. Government forces have still not secured the area in order to bury the dead and count them. Note that last year Boko Haram killed 10,000 people. This latest massacre is the worst atrocity since 9/11. It suggests that Boko Haram is feeling emboldened to intensify their Jihad after seeing the resurgence of other Jihadist groups around the world.
The polarizing effects of the Muhammad cartoons together with the growing terror threat in Europe are still unfolding as I write. We are hearing of riots around the world, churches burned and people being killed, and of course, stronger measures being taken by the international community in their war against terror.
Speaking of war, the Bible teaches that Christians are in a spiritual war. Jesus said the world will hate and persecute us but we shouldn't take revenge. Instead we must do good to our enemies, bless those who persecute us and pray for them. As warriors of Christ we ought to love our enemies, which implies sharing the Good News with Muslims. Also this means we mustn't be ashamed of the Gospel but share our faith boldly. When Paul gave instructions to put on the whole armour of God, he began by urging us to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. He concluded by urging us to have our feet shod with the readiness to share the Gospel of peace and then asked the Ephesians to pray for him that he would boldly proclaim the Gospel.
It isn't my idea that we should share our faith with unbelievers including Muslims. Christ commanded us. So let me encourage you, as you venture to share Christ with your Muslim neighbor. God is using current events to prepare the hearts of Muslims. In fact, more Muslims have turned to Christ in the last few decades than ever before. And a key reason behind this is their disillusionment with the never-ending violence they see as deeply embedded in Islam. I also want to encourage you to read a message, entitled, God's Peace Plan. It contains many practical pointers showing Jesus as the answer to people's heart felt yearning for peace.
Feel free to ask me any questions which are relevant to this article.
All biblical quotations are taken from the New Living Translation.