R. Kelly Could Have Learned from Muhammad


The now infamous R&B singer, R. Kelly, has been dogged by sexual misconduct and abuse allegations for more than two decades. These include his short marriage in 1994 to then 15-year old Aaliyah, when he was 27, lawsuits filed by women in 1996 (the victim was 15) and 2001 (this one was 17) claiming to have engaged in sex with him while underage (both of which were settled out of court), a video which surfaced in 2002 seeming to show him engaged in sex with another teenage girl, and a grand jury indictment later that year for 21 counts of child pornography (the trial in 2008 led to a jury verdict of not guilty).Image result for r Kelly

Mr. Kelly has resurfaced in the news recently due to a 6-part documentary entitled “Surviving R. Kelly” aired on Lifetime last week (Jan. 3-5). The goal of this series, according to Lifetime’s own description, is to shed light on the R&B singer whose “…career and playboy lifestyle has [sic] been riddled with rumors of abuse, predatory behavior, and pedophilia.” They are hoping that the “damning evidence and multiple witnesses” which they showcase will finally bring about appropriate opprobrium from the public, if not the halls of justice, particularly now in the wake of the “MeToo” movement.

R. Kelly might have avoided all the consequences of his sexual proclivities if he had chosen a different career path from R&B stardom. If the initial R. had stood not for his first name Robert but for a self-proclaimed title — Rasool (which means “messenger” in Arabic) — and if he fashioned himself after Islam’s prophet Muhammad, he might have made it out of this mess unscathed. All he would have needed to do was to proclaim the existence of an all-powerful god with whom only he could communicate and who issued authoritative revelations only through him. Then, like Muhammad before him, he could reveal that this god had commanded him to marry underage girls, and to accept marriage proposals from as many females as he wished, and to own and use as many sex slaves as his heart desired and bank account could afford. Since any criticism of Muhammad’s behavior toward women is off-limits in today’s leftist-progressive, pro-Islamic feminist, politically correct policers of public opinion, Rasool Kelly might equally enjoy the accolades and protection of Islamo-panderers in high places.

Just to refresh the memories of those who can’t recall much from early Muslim sources on the life of Muhammad, the Arabian prophet declared that Allah had permitted Muslim men up to four wives at any one time (Qur’an 4:3), except for Muhammad himself– in a special exemption, he was allowed as many wives as he wished (not to mention slave girls taken as booty or bought from the slave market as the fruit of successful jihad ventures):

O Prophet, indeed We have made lawful to you your wives to whom you have given their due compensation and those your right hand possesses from what Allah has returned to you [of captives] and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who emigrated with you and a believing woman if she gives herself to the Prophet [and] if the Prophet wishes to marry her, [this is] only for you, excluding the [other] believers. We certainly know what We have made obligatory upon them concerning their wives and those their right hands possess, [but this is for you] in order that there will be upon you no discomfort. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful (Sura 33:50, my emphasis).

How fortunate for Muhammad that Allah, who only communicates his will through Muhammad, makes clear to the rest of the world that as god of the universe he is personally concerned that the 7th C. backwater Arabian prophet not face any discomfort in his marriages and sexual relations!

This applies to many other occasions as well. For instance, one day Muhammad pays a visit to the home of his adopted son, Zayd, but the young man is not home. While at the entrance, Muhammad catches a glimpse of Zainab, his daughter-in-law, who is in a “state of undress” and begins to burn with lust. Zayd learns of this, and comes to Muhammad declaring his willingness to divorce Zainab so the prophet can have her. According to the Qur’an, Muhammad orders Zayd to keep his wife (33:37), since according to custom it was immoral for a father to marry his daughter-in-law, even from an adopted son. But a closer look at this verse indicates that Allah is upbraiding Muhammad for his words to Zayd, since it is Allah himself who has orchestrated this divorce precisely so Muhammad can take her as a wife and not have any discomfort over “human traditions.” For the welfare of humanity, Allah is using Muhammad as an example so that henceforth people will know it is not immoral to marry the ex-wives of their adopted sons. And in the process, Muhammad gets to add a hot young wife to his growing harem.

In the most highly authoritative collection of traditions known as Sahih Bukhari, we find this report of Muhammad’s favorite and sometimes feisty teenage wife, Aisha, upon hearing Allah’s “revelations” concerning Muhammad’s privileges with women:

I used to look down upon those ladies who had given themselves to Allah’s Messenger and I used to say, “Can a lady give herself (to a man)?” But when Allah revealed: “You (O Muhammad) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives), and you may receive any of them whom you will; and there is no blame on you if you invite one whose turn you have set aside (temporarily).’ (33.51) I said (to the Prophet), “I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires.” (Vol. 6, Book 60, Hadith 311, emphasis mine).

Aisha was without a doubt the youngest of Muhammad’s wives when he married her and took her to bed, barely 9 years of age. Muhammad had just turned 52. (Determining ages in this relationship and in what follows is a bit hazy, since early Arab Muslim culture calculated years based on the lunar calendar, which is roughly 10 days less than the solar calendar that we use in the West. Over the course of 75 lunar years, for example, this would translate to roughly 73 solar years, and so on.)

Here are the estimated ages of some of his other wives, and his, at the time he married them:

Hafsah — 19; Muhammad — 53

Juwayriyah — 20; Muhammad — 56

Safiyah — 16; Muhammad — 57

Mulaykah — 13 or 14; Muhammad — 58

Asma — 20 or less; Muhammad — 59

Amrah — 15; Muhammad 60.

Concubines (sex-slaves) have even less stature than wives, so Muslim history records fewer personal details about them, making their ages when Muhammad first took them less certain. But educated guesses for two of them are possible:

Rayhanah — roughly 15

Miriam (Mariyah) — between 17 and 20.See the source image

If only Robert Kelly had originally styled himself as Rasool Kelly, and patterned his own authoritative revelations after those of Muhammad, he might have totally avoided the scandals presently plaguing him. If Muhammad is so highly respected in today’s progressive culture, why not R. Kelly?

Or, to turn it around, if R. Kelly is rightly being pilloried for his sexual misconduct toward women, why not Muhammad, whose age differential and absolute power over his young brides would make him, in modern parlance, a sex abuser par excellence. 

If John Legend could publicly call R. Kelly a “serial child rapist,” I wonder what he would say about Muhammad. The answer, I’m sure, is “No comment.” Because in the West today, the mainstream media and elite thought-shapers have predetermined that Islam is benign, Muhammad a feminist reformer, and Shari’ah a better alternative to Western law and democracy. No need for facts; no need for history. The die has already been cast.

I am all for the truth coming out about R. Kelly, and for him to “face the music,” as it were. But, just as much, I am all for the truth coming out about Muhammad and for the world of Islam to own up to the reality of their prophet, and for the West to refuse any longer to give Muslims a deferential free pass in the competitive marketplace of ideas which should be a hallmark of free societies.

Am I wrong?

 

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A Thrill of Hope, the Weary World Rejoices!


Somewhere years ago I read a quotation attributed to Martin Luther which said that next to the Bible the best tool to get theology into the hearts of human beings is the hymnal. I agree with him. But of course, not all hymns/religious songs are theologically sound, so they must all be tested against the Word of God for their orthodoxy.

When they get it right, though, they are tremendous vehicles for bringing truth to light in ways that pierce the soul with eternity. Nowhere is this more true than in the Christmas season!

One of my favorite hymns for its theological magic is “O Holy Night.” As I sang it numerous times this last month, two particular couplets thrilled my heart with deepened meaning. The first is often quoted, for obvious reasons:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

The truth that God, out of unwarranted love,  would enter this fallen world and take up residence among humans beings perfused with evil and depravity in order to rescue and adopt them as His children, should cause the heart to leap with joy. See the source imageSuch love for pre-fallen Adam and Eve, created in the pure image and likeness of God, would make sense — God would naturally love that which He has created and called good. But after the Fall, when the human race spirals downward into the willfulness of rebellion and moral corruption, how could anyone reasonably expect God to love a wayward and wasted humanity?

My limited experience in buying and selling things on the open market has taught me that any particular item is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it, no matter what price the seller sets. The actual purchase price determines its “value”.

The message of the Incarnation — as Athanasius put it, “that the Son of God became a man in order to enable men to become sons of God” (please enjoy the poetic balance and don’t get hung up on the exclusive wording) — tells us that God values even a lost and bedraggled human race worthy of hell; that He values us so much He was willing to come to earth “for us and for our salvation;” that we matter so much to Him that He was willing to spill His own blood so ours might be spared (in Acts 20:28 Paul urged the Ephesian elders  to “feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own blood”)!

How amazing is that? In God’s eyes you and I and all human beings ever created or yet to come are worth the price of the blood of God incarnate! In the poetic theology of our hymn, when He appeared “the soul felt its worth!” No philosophy or religion can match the gospel message as to the value of every human life — if we matter to God, we matter — period!

And that leads me to the second couplet that so deeply impacted me this Christmas season:

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Actually, what caused my ears to perk up was hearing a version on the radio (perhaps I misheard it) which said, “Chains shall He break for the slave is His brother….” It’s powerful enough to be reminded that we all share a common humanity and thus should treat each other with equal dignity and respect, recognizing that Jesus offers salvation unreservedly to those in chains of slavery as well as to those who fancy themselves free. But how much more stunning is it to realize that the slave is not just our brother, but the brother of our Lord and Savior! How quickly we must embrace the brothers and sisters of Jesus who have suffered unjustly and been treated as less than fully human!See the source image

To see whether this rendering was faithful to the original hymn text, I did some research — and discovered that the English version we sing was based on an original text in French. The lines in question read:

Il voit un frère où n’était qu’un esclave, L’amour unit ceux qu’enchaînait le fer.

Translated literally into English, this is rendered: “He [Le Rédempteur = the Redeemer] sees a brother where there was only a slave; love unites those whom iron had enchained.” The poetry doesn’t translate well in literal English, but the meaning seems to enfold both ideas so well — the slave is our brother, and His brother.

The French text was originally composed in 1843 and first performed publicly in 1847, and finally translated into the English text we have today in 1855, less than 25 years after the British Parliament had passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, which finally and fully outlawed slavery throughout the British Empire. Without question, it was the tireless work of William Wilberforce, John Newton and other committed followers of Jesus Christ which held Parliament’s feet to the fire until they were forced to recognize the truth of the two-pronged biblical message that God created all human beings in His image and He came to sacrifice His life for all human beings. Slavery was an unconscionable affront to the glory and goodness of God, and had to be eradicated.

And so we sing, each Christmas season:

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn….

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Amen.

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The True Wonder of Christmas


Yesterday, I had the privilege of preaching at the Pauline Chapel of the world-famous Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs. See the source imageHere’s a transcript of my message on the true wonder of Christmas:

Fresh off his 19th birthday, a young American man approached his last day in India. In a small compound located in a poor section of Mumbai, he was seated before his 90 year-old guru, where he had come 3 weeks earlier to deepen his 6 year study of Eastern mysticism. The guru had graciously invited him to a private exit interview and given him permission to voice any lingering questions.

The lad had many, for since age 13 he had been on a quest for truth. The question of God’s existence nagged at him, but even more the outlandish claim made by his Christian friends that Jesus was God come to earth as a human being.

So, he asked his guru, “Who was Jesus?”

“Jesus was an avatar,” – a signpost to humanity as to how to live, how to see reality – like Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Confucius, Muhammad, and Zoroaster, he said. Part of a super-elite spiritual class of men to be admired and emulated.See the source image

But the young man was not convinced; yet because he was still in awe of his guru he thought better of asking further questions.  But he knew that the claims made by Jesus and his followers, and the miracles and teachings of Jesus, far outstripped those of the others his guru mentioned.

  • Moses never claimed to be the Great I AM
  • Buddha never declared himself to be the Creator of all things visible and invisible in heaven and on earth
  • Confucius never asserted that he had descended from heaven
  • Muhammad never raised the dead, nor spoke of God has his Father
  • Zoroaster, a seeker after truth, never claimed to be The Truth
  • Krishna was a mythical Hindu being, so he never actually said or did anything….

So, he was left with his nagging question: Who is Jesus?

The world, of course, has pitched many proposals in answer:

Is he perhaps indeed an exalted member of some elite spiritual superhero club, as the guru thought – pals with all the prophets of old that have arisen around the world?

  • This is certainly the view of Islam – Jesus occupies a place in the top echelon of prophets, along with Abraham, Moses, and of course Muhammad. Jesus even excels the others in terms of his virgin birth, magnificent miracles and ascension to heaven.
    • And yet, Muslims refuse to celebrate Christmas, because they reject as blasphemous the idea that God came to earth and was born as a human being.

Perhaps he is some sort of half god/half man as worshiped in many of the pagan religions during his day. Like Achilles, Perseus, Orpheus of the Greeks, or Hercules, Romulus and Remus of the Romans?

Or perhaps just a wise itinerant preacher whose circumstances catapulted him to fame as an accident of history, but whose memory we revere because his teachings have had such an impact on Western civilization?

All of these are attempts to understand and classify Jesus with some exalted spiritual status. Those who offer them believe they are elevating Jesus to his rightful place, much like liberal theologians of the post-Christian era, who speak of a “Christology from below,” typically an “adoptionist Christology” – i.e., Jesus was only a human being, but one with such promise and performance that God chose to adopt him uniquely and give him the title Son of God.

 But all of these efforts deny or fall short of the message of the NT. The Gospel makes the seemingly outlandish claim that the eternal God who dwells outside time and space came into his created universe at one precise point in history, born into this world as a human being, experiencing life as all other human beings do.

  • Not that God merely blessed a special human being with an extra portion of His presence
  • Or even honored him with a special title as Son of God
  • But that God Himself actually condescended to enter His creation to experience life as a creature, to look His creatures directly in their eyes as one of them, to identify with a lost and helpless human race so as to become its Savior.

 In the words of John 1:14, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, and we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

Or as a line from the Christmas hymn “O Come, All Ye Faithful” puts it: “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing….”

John goes on to say, “No human being has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made Him known.” (John 1:18)

This is the true wonder of Christmas – that God entered this world Himself in order to reconcile human beings to Himself. God has come – this earth is the humble host to the incarnation of God, who left his throne and glory to walk incognito among the riff-raff of the universe (people like you and me).

The true wonder of Christmas is not simply that a virgin conceived and gave birth to a son in Bethlehem;

  • Nor that shepherds saw a host of angels proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
  • Nor that wise men from the east came bearing presents.

The true wonder is that God became a human being – for us!

  • The God whom heaven and earth cannot contain allowed Himself to be contained in the womb of a young Jewish virgin.
  • The King of Kings rose off His all-glorious Throne in order to be laid in a plain manger trough
  • The Sovereign and omnipotent God experienced helplessness and vulnerability as a human baby
  • The all-Sufficient One who has no needs yearned to suckle at the breast of a human mother.
  • The hands that flung galaxies into space now curled around the fingers of those who held him.

What a wondrous mystery! But even more wonderful is the reason why God stooped so low for humanity.

He reveals the reason in Scripture – it is because of His unfathomable love for the human race – not some mythical, obedient, loving, kind and perfect human race, but the real rough and tumble, morally-stained, murderous, hateful, arrogant and self-centered fallen race. God loves us so much, that He sent His Son into the world to save sinners so that He could make us His precious family – heirs of His joy-filled life for eternity.Image result for God so loved the world

Has the truth of this love sunk into your heart as we approach another Christmas? Do you know in the deepest recesses of your heart that God loves you – the real you, not some polished image that you present to others, not some better person you hope to be someday, but the struggling sinner you know yourself to be when you look in the mirror, when you lie alone with your thoughts in bed at night trying to suppress memories of which you are ashamed or fearful? God loves that you. That’s why Jesus came into this world. That’s why Christmas is suffused with wonder!

That’s why the Gospel is good news. This amazing news that God loves and desires to save those whom He has every right to condemn and send to hell is so unexpected, so unimaginable. It would be too good to be true unless God had actually sent His Son that first Christmas Day. It’s such good and astonishing news that, as we are told in 1 Peter 1:12, the angels in heaven long to look into this event of God’s incarnation and ponder it with wonder.

So, what does this mean for you and me? Paul writes in Col 2:9-10:

“For in Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”

That fullness of life means at least this:

  • We are free to lay down our pretend lives – we cannot even pretend to earn what God has already given us freely in His love. So receive with gratitude the wondrous gift that He came to give you personally.Image result for Free from condemnation
  • We are free from the judgments and condemnations of others – if God is for us, who can be against us?
  • Because we have been so fully loved by God, we are free to love others, even when they don’t deserve it. God has loved us in spite of ourselves; we can now love others in spite of themselves. “Freely you have received; freely give.”

By the way, that 19 year-old who left India confused and troubled discovered almost exactly one year later who the real Jesus is, after reading the Gospels for himself and inviting that Jesus to take charge of his life. For the last 43 years, 2 months and 17 days he has been learning more deeply the intricacies of God’s incarnational love. I know this personally, because of course that 19 year-old was me.

The true wonder of Christmas will never lose its capacity to astonish us, because no matter how hard we search we will never be able to plumb the infinite depths of God’s love for the undeserving.

May the real wonder of Christmas shine in your hearts in this season and throughout the years to come.

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Do You Believe in Prayer? Then, Pray!


During Sundays this month, many churches around the world are highlighting “International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians. According to Open Doors USA, some 250 million Christians suffered persecution for their faith in 2017 — far more than any other religious group in existence. The bulk of this persecution occurs in Muslim-majority countries. Of the “top ten” worst nations for such persecution, nine are self-identified Muslim states. The other (which by the way has occupied the number one slot for the last sixteen years) is North Korea. Even worse, thirty-seven of the top fifty nations are Muslim-majority.

What can be done to turn the tide? I’m convinced that the only surefire way to stop Muslim oppression of Christians is not political treaties or military power but the transformative power of the Holy Spirit causing enemies of the Cross to become children of God, former oppressors who now see themselves as brothers and sisters to the ones they once tyrannized.

This supernatural power is something the world knows nothing of, but the Scriptures and Christian history testify ubiquitously to its reality. God has linked the outpouring of His Spirit to the prayers of His people, yet in Western churches, prayer remains a largely neglected tool in the struggle to change the world.

The most powerful means at our disposal to help our persecuted brothers and sisters is intercession: that God would keep them strong and faithful in their testimony to Jesus, and would transform the hearts of the enemies of the gospel, making them newfound believers in Jesus Christ.

What applies to persecutors also applies to terrorists. If you want to see the world liberated from the threat of Islamic terrorists, the best thing you as an individual believer can do is pray that the Spirit of God will reach and convict and transform the hearts of jihadis, bringing them into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. Converted terrorists are no further threat to kill or torture others. See the source imageYou don’t believe this is possible? It’s happening more often than you think. God is able to make Himself known even to the least likely converts — just remember Saul of Tarsus who became Paul the apostle.

Here’s another contemporary example, highlighting how God has recently acted in response to the prayers of one congregation for a couple far out of reach of the gospel by conventional means:

Two weeks ago, a group I was with heard this story personally from an Egyptian missionary who has been discipling a middle-aged Saudi couple who live not far from Mecca. The woman, Yasmine [name changed for protection], who was not particularly religious, began having unusual dreams where a man in white visited her and revealed himself as Jesus. She was filled with questions and doubts about what Christians believed about him and over the course of several nights, Jesus answered them for her. Increasingly drawn to this Jesus of her dreams, she finally shared her experiences hesitatingly with her husband, who was a doctor, rather analytical and not at all religious. He listened to her list of answers from Jesus, and said, “Let me investigate these things on the internet.” Over the next few weeks, the couple became convinced that this Jesus was the Jesus of the New Testament, of the Christians, and knew they had to become his followers.See the source image Yasmine said, “We need to get baptized.” But where to do this? It couldn’t happen in the precincts of Mecca. “We need someplace safe and anonymous. I know – let’s go to America,” she said. So they made plans, arriving soon on the Eastern seaboard.

Now, they have three adult children, all in college or grad school in one nearby city to where they landed. The parents thought, “We need to tell our kids we’re here, but they’re all Muslim so we can’t share the real reason we’ve come. But, if we don’t they will worry that we have come for treatment for some serious illness, or some other scary reason.”

So, Yasmine told her husband, “Let me talk to our oldest son and feel out whether I can share our news quietly with him.” So she did. Her son listened with increasing agitation until she finished, and finally broke out with the words, “Alleluia, alleluia!”, words she didn’t understand (they are not in the Muslim Arabic vocabulary). So his story quickly tumbled out. Each of the kids in the course of their studies had met and become friends with Christians, who loved and shared the gospel with them. All three had become believers, and now attended the same church, where about a year ago they had all been baptized. Their main heartache was for their parents back in Saudi, and so they asked the congregation to pray that somehow God would bring them to Himself. For the last year, that request was a central part of the life of that fellowship. Now, standing before him was the fruit of all those prayers! The next Sunday, the children introduced the congregation to their parents and told the story, and Yasmine and her husband were baptized! They have since returned to Arabia, knowing that difficulties and possible affliction await them, but dedicated to living for Christ among the citizens they love.

Beloved, take heart! God is on the move in extraordinary ways throughout the Islamic world, bringing Muslims by the thousands to faith in Christ! This is an epic time in the work of worldwide missions to the Muslim world. The faithful prayers of millions of Christians are a contributing factor to why God has supernaturally broken through the hardened walls of Islamic unbelief and is reaping a great and growing harvest of Muslim converts.

Your intercessory prayers will be an indisputable part of the advance of God’s Kingdom as He brings the light of Christ to shine in the hearts of those who up to now have walked in darkness.

Won’t you join the effort?

 

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A Tale of Two Tombs


Key to the historical and theological claims of Christianity is the empty tomb of Jesus. According to the canonical Gospels, archaeology and historical reasoning, this tomb was not always empty. After Jesus had been crucified, declared dead and subsequently buried in a tomb donated by Joseph of Arimathea, his resting place had been closed in with a heavy stone rolled across the opening, and then an official seal of the Roman Empire threatening death to anyone daring to break it. For good measure, in acquiescence to the demands of the Jewish leaders who feared Jesus’ disciples might come and steal the body to then claim fraudulently that he had risen from the dead, the Roman procurator Pilate ordered that a guard of Roman soldiers guard the tomb. Failure to do so would expose them to execution for dereliction of duty.

History records that on that first Easter morning, the sealed and guarded tomb was found open and empty, all except for the grave clothes in which the body of Jesus had been wrapped. Women who came to the tomb that morning to wrap the decomposing body with more aromatic spices were confused to see the heavy stone rolled away from the tomb’s entrance, the Roman soldiers paralyzed with fear, and the cause of that fear, an angel from heaven who addressed the women with unbelievable news: “Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he laid. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead….”See the source image

They do as commanded, finding the disciples huddled in hiding for fear that the authorities might do to them what they had done to the Master. The resurrection of Jesus was not something they were really expecting, even though Jesus had prophesied his conquest over death. And who can blame them. Although the resurrection of the dead was a part of certain Jewish eschatologies, no Jew, learned or not, expected any resurrection to take place before the Day of Judgment. The resurrection of Jesus three days after his brutal execution was not within their frame of reference.

So, when the risen Lord appeared to them later that Easter Sunday, they were filled with fear as well as excitement — their paradigms for life had just been blown to smithereens. All they knew was that Jesus was even greater than they had imagined before his arrest and humiliation. Only the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus can explain the transformation of fearful disciples bereft of hope and purpose after the crucifixion into a band of bold ambassadors proclaiming the victory of Jesus the Lord over the all the powers of evil, and the invitation for all sinners to experience His salvation.

Though other human beings have died and come back to life for a time (Lazarus comes to mind), the life to which they return is merely a continuation of mortal existence. They all still succumb in the end to death. Only Jesus has returned from death with a kind of life that death can no longer touch, and He offers the promise of that victorious life to those who become His followers. That is why the empty tomb is central to the claims of the Christian faith — the good news of the gospel hinges on the person and work of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God who took on the enemies of humanity — sin, death and the devil — and defeated them to free human beings to a future of unremitting joy.

This may surprise you, but Islam also teaches about an empty tomb with regard to Jesus. That grave is found in Medina, in the Mosque of the Prophet. There, under a special green dome in an area closed off to the public, lie the tombs of Muhammad, his close friend and first caliph of Islam Abu Bakr, and ‘Umar, the second caliph of Islam. See the source imageThere are disputed traditions that this mausoleum also contains space for one more grave, reserved for Jesus. But although scholars dispute the traditions, the vast majority of Sunni faithful believe it, because it fits with popular Islamic eschatology, which runs like this:

The prophet Jesus, who never died by crucifixion but was rescued by Allah and taken to heaven without seeing death, has been awaiting the command of Allah to return to earth for the last chapter of human history. Numerous traditions record what will happen through Jesus:

Abu Huraira narrated that Prophet Mohammad said: “There is no prophet between me and him (Jesus Christ). He shall descend, so recognize him when you see him. He is a man of medium height, (his complexion) is between reddish and white; he will be (dressed) in two yellowish garments; His head looks as if it is dripping water even though it is not wet. He will fight people in the cause (for the sake) of Islam, will break the Cross and kill the swine (pigs) and abolish Jizya (tax on Christians and Jews); and Allah will put an end to all religious sects  except Islam during his (Jesus’) time. He (Jesus) will slay the Antichrist (Dajjal) and he will stay on Earth for 40 years. Then, he will die and the Muslims will perform the funeral prayer for him.” (Abu Dawud and Musnad Ahmad).

Other traditions fill in some blanks: Jesus will return to serve as Caliph of the Muslim world. One of his principal tasks will be to defeat the Dajjal (Islam’s version of the Antichrist) and the armies of evil (consisting mostly of Jews). Jesus will destroy them, and will order the conversion of all remaining Jews and Christians to Islam, or their execution if they refuse. Under his rule, the Caliphate will expand to rule over all the world, and all religions will be expunged from history except Islam. In the course of his forty-year rule, Jesus will marry and have a family, and the world will live in complete harmony and overflowing bounty. Finally, Jesus will succumb gently to old age, somewhere between Mecca and Medina. His body will be carried to the Tomb of the Prophet in Medina, and in accordance with Islamic funeral rites it will be laid in the grave prepared in advance for him next to Muhammad, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. In short order, Allah will bring history to a close with the onset of the Day of Judgment and the sorting of all humanity into groups headed for an eternity in Paradise or Hell.

Jesus’ empty tomb in Islam sends very clear anti-Christian messages to the world, if they are listening.

First, the Muslim Jesus has not conquered death, only temporarily sidestepped it. Allah rescued him from crucifixion and “raptured” him to heaven where from 33 AD till now he has been waiting patiently for Allah’s command to return to earth to resume his ministry and complete his mission. At its completion, he too, as with all other mortals, will fall prey to death.

Second, since Jesus was not crucified, he made no sacrifice which could atone for human sin. Islam rejects the claim that Jesus is the divinely sent Saviour to whom all sinners are graciously invited to turn for salvation.

Third, since Jesus is only mortal, the biblical claim that God took on human nature in the person of the Messiah is rejected out of hand, and designated as shirk (Arabic for “association”, i.e., pretending something from the creation is equal with the one true God). In Islam, the sin of shirk is unpardonable, and the hottest fires of hell are reserved for those guilty of its practice. According to the Qur’an, this includes orthodox Christians and Jews (whom Allah accuses of calling Ezra the Son of God, even though there is no evidence in Jewish sources to back up this charge).

Fourth, the Islamic Jesus will come back as the leader of Islam on earth. His actions will validate Muhammad’s claims that Islam is the true religion and all other religions, including Christianity and Judaism, are false. We are told that this Jesus will break all crosses in the world, driving home the point that the message of salvation through the substitutionary atonement of the Lamb of God on behalf of helpless sinners is wholly specious. The essence of Christianity will be exposed as a lie, according to Islamic eschatology. This Jesus will go on to kill all pigs, which symbolize all that is unclean and haram in the world. It is possible, since the Qur’an refers to Jews as “sons of apes and pigs”, that the destruction of “pigs” by the Islamic Jesus refers to the elimination of Jews from the future world. Even if not, however, the next task of Jesus will accomplish that same result. We are told that Jesus will abolish the jizya, the special poll tax required of dhimmis (Jews and Christians and other minority monotheists who wish to stay alive and are willing to live as second class members of society, subjugated under Islamic law).  The reason for the abolition of jizya is that the dhimmi class will no longer be tolerated. Now the Islamic Jesus will give every non-Muslim the choice: become a Muslim or be executed. This final caliph means business. Under his leadership, Islam will expand until, as the Qur’an says, “the religion is all for Allah” (8:39). Not only will all recalcitrant Christians and Jews be exterminated, so also will Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Taoists, Confucianists, Bahais, Zoroastrians, Mormons, secular humanists, atheists, naturists, animists, tribalists, transcendentalists, futurists, agnostics and passivists. If you are not a Muslim and you would classify yourself in some category other than what I have listed, you will be exterminated by the Islamic Jesus as well, unless you bow in submission to Islam.

Once this unrelenting Jesus has chopped his way to a world united under Islam, he will rule magnanimously in the name of Allah until death comes for him. At that point, his subjects will carry his body to Medina and bury it in grave next to that of Muhammad, according to Muslim burial rites. Then, the empty tomb of Jesus will be filled by a lifeless corpse that can offer no hope of eternal life to any lost sinner.

The Islamic Jesus is neither Savior, Resurrected Lord, Son of God Incarnate, Prince of Peace, Good Shepherd nor Light of the World, but only the Sword of Allah who will come to slice and dice the world by force until the totalitarian agenda of Islam is accomplished.

The next time a well-meaning simpleton tells you that Islam and Christianity are fully compatible sister faiths that can coexist in harmony, please let them know in no uncertain terms that the teachings of Islam are a full-scale attack on the central tenets of the Christian faith. To justify its existence, Islam must destroy the Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in the crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension of the incarnate Son of God, whom we know as Jesus Christ.

See the source imageIslam has declared war on the gospel, and hence on the Church. It is the task of the Church to respond appropriately to this attack, not with force but with the proclamation of the Truth in love. Our confidence is this: the false Jesus of Islam is no match for the true Jesus of history. The Kingdom of God will overcome all pretenders.

To quote a genuine prophet, “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees.”

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God Repents of Heaven’s Closed Border Policy!!!


Pope Francis is at it again. Last Tuesday (Oct. 23rd), he berated Western countries, implying they are racist and Hitlerian for wanting to slow the hordes of migrants crossing their borders. Instead, he argued, such uninvited squatters “…“must be welcomed with an open heart and open doors. Closure is the path to suicide.” Because, after all, “diversity” is the wellspring of all felicity around the world. Just look at Sweden, Germany, Belgium, France, and England, for example. The rapid influx of alien Islamic cultures has rendered them veritable paradises!

Not being Roman Catholic, I have no vested interest in defending papal declarations as infallible, or even weighty. While I have no reason to doubt that Francis is a well-meaning follower of Jesus, many of his statements regarding migration and the requirement of nation states to tear down border obstacles and welcome all who wish to come strike me as naive and short-sighted. This, of course, is just my opinion, which I would normally keep to myself, except that Francis supports his exhortations theologically: “…Christ himself asks us to welcome our brother and sister migrants and refugees with arms wide open,” he opined back in September 2017.

There is certainly some biblical justification for this statement generally — Israel is commanded to welcome the sojourner in her midst, and the followers of Jesus are called to exercise the virtue of hospitality (the Greek word used most often in the NT, philoxenia, means literally “a love of strangers”).

However, unless Pope Francis has received new revelation from the Lord, it seems unlikely that God would be calling nations to commit societal suicide by welcoming the tidal wave of those who refuse to integrate into their host culture and who claim as their right the free benefits normally limited to citizens and legal immigrants.

But perhaps Francis has a new divine revelation to share which makes clear that Jesus indeed intends for nations to erase their borders and welcome all who wish to come. Since Jesus would not require of human beings something he himself would refuse to do, I am hoping that Francis will soon tell us that the landscape of heaven is changing.

St. Peter is out of a job as Director of Immigration Control — no longer is there a booth at the Pearly Gates where an applicant’s paperwork is checked and either stamped or rejected. heaven-atheist-pearly-gates.jpgThe Gates stand wide open. In fact, the unscalable walls of heaven are now being dismantled, and those outcasts formerly rejected and huddled in hell are now free to stream across once secure borders and take up residence in heaven, despite having no interest in embracing the ethos of the Kingdom of God. Heaven’s residents are thrilled to welcome the denizens of hell because, after all, their Lord Jesus has now thrown open his arms to all reprobates and rebels, showing his refusal to bar any from entry to the Celestial City.

Since this is now the stance of heaven, mass immigration from hell is well underway. Francis, deeply impressed by this, is undertaking a reform of the Vatican, leading the way for other nation states to follow his example. vatican walls.jpgHe has ordered that the roughly two miles of 40 foot high walls surrounding the 110 acres of sovereign Roman Catholic territory be torn down so that whoever wishes to come and build homes there will not be impeded. Likewise, he is putting up on the market all the treasures of the Vatican so that the monies raised will cover all living expenses for those who come, as long as they last.

Given that heaven has taken the lead, and that the Pontifex Maximus has modeled God’s will before an unenlightened world, what recourse will the stubborn leaders of the Western world have but to tear down walls, open borders and empty their coffers for all comers? If they refuse to do this, they will one day pay the consequences for their populist sins, facing the judgment of God and banishment from heaven.

Wait….

All will be well in the borderless afterlife! Apparently, everyone now is welcome in heaven, even heartless Hitlerian populists.

 

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The Islamic Republic of Iran — “Who Will Free Us from This Body of Death?”


The Islamic Republic of Iran, established in 1979 by the Ayatollah Khomeini, has never been a benign presence among the worldwide community of nations. Image result for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini Quotes

  • From inception, it has made no secret of its hatred for Israel, and its intention to terminate the “Zionist entity.”
  • It has funded, trained and provided weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon (both to harass Israel and to create a Shi’ite powerhouse in Lebanon) and to Hamas in Gaza (a Sunni Muslim terrorist group embracing the mutual goal of Israel’s destruction).
  • It has sought nuclear weapons technology, buying help secretly from Abdul Qadeer Khan, the “father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb” in 1989 and subsequent years.
  • It provided diplomatic cover for the 9/11 terrorists to mask their travel to and from al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan to help ensure the success of bin Laden’s plans against America.
  • It rushed to the support of Bashar al-Assad in Syria against the rise of rebel forces in 2011, and has used the opportunity not only to provide military intelligence and weaponry, but also to establish its own bases in Syria with an eye to threatening Israel more directly.
  • Since Barack Obama’s pull-out of US forces from Iraq, Iran has cemented its ties with fellow-Shi’ite political and militia leaders in Iraq, seeking to bring the war-bruised and sectarian-ravaged country into its orbit as a puppet state.
  • On an almost daily basis, Iranian navy fast attack boats harass US naval vessels sailing in international waters in the Persian Gulf, seeking to enforce their claim that no non-Iranian military presence will be tolerated in the Gulf. Just yesterday, the British destroyer HMS Dragon experienced this same harassment before the Iranian attack boats finally backed off.
  • Since the most recent Yemeni civil war commenced in 2015, Iran has supported the Houthi rebels in their effort to overthrow the government. Sending in military trainers, upgrading their weapons, providing them financial support, Iran’s hope is to create greater instability for their great regional enemy, Saudi Arabia, See the source imageand ultimately to establish their own permanent presence in Yemen to further threaten the Saudis and Israel by surrounding them both with a “Shi’ite crescent” from Lebanon through Syria and Iraq and around the Gulf region ending in Yemen, on the western tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
  • Meanwhile, in its quotidian media releases, Iran continues it bellicose threats to America, the “Great Satan,” and to Israel, the “Little Satan,” as well as to Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and whomever else it feels stands in its way.

Why all this peddling of violence to extend its influence? What is Iran’s ultimate goal? And why has the West generally ignored Iran’s role as a destabilizing threat in the Middle East and South Asia? What made the Obama administration think that offering a carrot rather than a stick would cause Iran to become our best friend, or at least to eschew terror and war against others?

One look at the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran is enough to expose the illusion that the mullahs and government functionaries are looking for peace and cooperation with others. In the preface to the Constitution, we find a paragraph heading: An Ideological Army. Here’s what it says:

In establishing and equipping the defense forces of the country, the focus shall be on maintaining ideology and faith as the foundation and the measure. Consequently, the Army of the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Pasdaran [Farsi for “Guards”] Revolutionary Corps are formed in accordance with the aforementioned objective. They will undertake the responsibility of not only guarding and protecting the borders, but also the weight of ideological mission, i.e. striving ( jehād) [sic] on the path of God and struggle on the path of expanding the sovereignty of the law of God in the world; in accordance with the Qur’anic verse: “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies” (8: 60).See the source image

In other words, the Iranian armed forces and the paramilitary force know in the West at the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have the twofold mission of protecting the country from attack, and of bearing “the weight of the ideological mission,” which is the extension of Islam to the whole world, bringing every land under the “sovereignty” of Shari’a law. That they are deadly serious about this is seen in the fact that the Qur’an is quoted. It is their sworn religious duty to amass as much strength as they can muster in order to “strike terror” into the enemies of Allah (which of course will also be their enemies). And who are the enemies of Allah? All who refuse to bow to Islam — Shi’ite Islam, in this case. See the source imageDeath to America! Death to Israel! Death to Western Europe! Death to Canada! Death to Brazil! Death to South Africa! Death to Russia! Death to India! Death to Korea! Death to China! Death to Australia! If I didn’t name your country, don’t despair — there is more than enough death to go around; you’ll be on the list soon enough.

It is for good reason that the US State Department first designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism on Jan. 19, 1984. It’s not as if Iran was trying to hide this fact — it is part and parcel of their nationalistic Islamic identity. The big question for the United States and indeed all the nations of the free world is: Why for almost forty years have we put up with an Islamic government committed to sowing terror in the world so as to extend the hegemony of repressive, anti-Western Shari’a law over more of the world’s population?

Where is the will of the free world to isolate this cancerous regime, to refuse all consular relations, to expel them as a pariah nation from the UN, to freeze all their assets and impose total trade embargos? At this point, with Iran’s economy in free fall, and with its population engaged in massive protests against the regime, it wouldn’t take much for the government to implode, and to be replaced by secular rule. That is what the vast majority of Iranians long for. It’s what they deserve. They, too, have been victims of the iron fist of the armies of the mullahs striking terror into their hearts to keep them in line.

Who will speak a word of sanity to the leaders of the free world so as to bring about the downfall of an evil government and the fresh air of freedom to a people long repressed? Forty years of malevolence and savagery is enough. Who will stand for the people of Iran? Who will stand for common decency? Who will stand against Islamic jihad and the imposition of Shari’a?

Many of us are waiting for political leaders worth their salt. It’s time to step forward!

 

 

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