Islamic State vs. Kingdom of God

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

`Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah.

For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;

they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!

But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!

He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.’”

(Revelation 12: 10 – 12 NIV)

I have just read an article on the internet by Graeme Wood from the National Journal - ‎February‎ ‎17‎, ‎2015 entitled What ISIS Really Wants. It is very frightening, but confirms what I have thought was happening but did not want to admit. This article is quite long and detailed and has obviously entailed many, many hours of work. Mr. Wood cites sources and interviews that validate his work. It cannot be logically disputed.

In short, what Graeme Wood is reporting is that ISIS is the true expression of the seventh century expression of Islam. What ISIS is doing is what the prophet Mohammed and the commentators and interpreters of the Koran immediately after it was written did during the initial expression of Islam.

We have closed our eyes to facts and have expressed because of modern day requirements of political correctness that Islam is a religion of peace and desires to live peaceably among the rest of the world population and leave everyone else alone to do whatever they wish and worship in whatever way they desire. This is only true of those who do not follow the true teachings of Mohammed. Those Muslims who live among us in peace are those who are living their religion in a way that has evolved from the original teachings so that they can go about their lives in what might be termed a normal manner. They have assimilated into Western or modern society and have separated their religion from their day to day lives. The religion of most Muslims who live in the west or in first world situations has been relegated to the Mosque and to some modes of dress in public.

What ISIS is expressing is the original teachings from the Koran including crucifixion of apostate Muslims and slavery of those they encounter in the territory they are conquering. The only real difference between what happened in the seventh century and what is happening today with ISIS is that in the seventh century the weapons were swords and today the weapons are automatic rifles. Even the leaders of Muslim organizations the Western world considers terrorists are calling for the Muslim world to rise up and defeat ISIS.

We call “radicalization” the education of young Muslims to join with ISIS in the battle to take over the world. It is radicalization. But we must be honest and admit that the call is to what are the basic teachings of Mohammed and the Koran.

What is the answer? What is the proper response of the Christian? I believe the proper response called for by followers of Jesus Christ is to go back to our basic teachings of Jesus just as ISIS has gone back to the basic teachings of Mohammed. I have for a long time been considering the development of Islam a Satanic reaction to Jesus’ work. When Jesus came to earth He became the full revelation of God to us. Jesus’ way of love expressed the love of the Father for the world. Jesus taught a way of love that did not condemn others but provided a way of salvation for them. Jesus’ death and resurrection provided the way for us to find and develop a love relationship with our loving heavenly Father. The way of salvation is the expression of God’s grace to accomplish for us what we could not do for ourselves. Jesus’ obeyed all of the Law of Moses and fulfilled the Law of Moses by dying as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In terms of the Jewish leaders, Jesus was crucified by them because they wanted to see Him eternally cursed. (Actually He was condemned by the Jewish leaders and crucified by the Romans because the Jewish leaders did not have the authority to crucify.) The resulting crucifixion, however, completed and nullified the Mosaic sacrificial system and fulfilled the Mosaic Law. This became the central controversy between the Jews and the early believers. The Jews wanted the Gentile believers to become Jews before they could be considered Christians. In other words, they insisted on obedience to the Law they could not obey and never had been able to obey. They denied grace and insisted only on obedience to the Law.

The development of Islam by Mohammed was a direct reaction of Satan to the love of God expressed in grace through faith in Jesus Christ. In Islam there is no grace. Only obedience to the law is demanded. Punishment for disobedience is severe, usually involving stoning, amputation, or crucifixion. So the very basis of Christianity was denied by Islam.

The answer is cited in the above scripture. We must live the life of Christ by our example and by our testimony and not be afraid to die for our faith. In other words, let Christ live in and through us.

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Law or Love?

The Sermon on the Mount reported by Matthew in chapters 5 through 7 is a sermon preached by Jesus instructing His disciples in the way of the kingdom that He declared was near: “From that time on Jesus began to preach, `Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” (Matthew 4: 17 NIV)

The core of the teaching of Jesus is in two concepts:

  1. We are to become salt and light: You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
  2. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear for the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 13 – 20 NIV)

These passages quoted above may be the most difficult in all Scripture. The Beatitudes just preached by Jesus throw our normal expectation of religion and, indeed, all of life on its ear. From “Blessed are the poor in spirit” to “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,” Jesus is announcing the kingdom of God (kingdom of heaven in Matthew) in terms that are seemingly impossible to comprehend and certainly impossible to complete in one’s own life. Then He immediately calls us out and challenges us to be “salt” and “light” in this world that Jesus said we were to live in but not be part of.I do not see myself as a light set on a lampstand. I do not find that I am shedding light into anyone else’s life. I am not set on a hill like a city; but I have been hidden. Why have I been hidden and am not shedding my light? Why am I not a preservative in the world and one who makes things around me more tasty?Following Jesus in the Way of Love places me in a very unique position in all of history in both heaven and earth. By following Jesus in the Way of Love I enter into Jesus. I exchange my life for His. I actually die. This is what Jesus was talking about. If I were to cling to my life by trying to fulfill what Jesus has already fulfilled I will fail to live over and over again. However, if I die to any attempt to fulfill the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount or the other teachings of Jesus and examples of His life and death I live according to the life He gives me.After the coming of the Holy Spirit Peter preached a sermon that resulted in the salvation of 3,000. The words of Jesus were truly fulfilled and the church was established on the fact that Jesus is the Christ.

When I attempt to fulfill the Law I find that I am helpless to do so. I cannot be salt and light. However, when I accept the fact that Jesus has fulfilled the Law and Prophets and die to my own attempts I then live the life of Jesus in this fallen world and He becomes salt and light in me, through me, and around me. Jesus’s life, lived in us, witnesses to the fact that Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets in us.

We see the effect of these attempts to live in the lives of the disciples who lived with Jesus for 3 ½ years during His ministry. They quarreled over which of them was the greatest. James and John tried to get Jesus to promise them a place at His right and left hands in the coming kingdom. At least three times Jesus taught them that He was to go to Jerusalem, die at the hands of the high priests, and be raised on the third day. They did not understand. When Jesus was arrested Peter tried to cut off the head of a servant of the High Priest, succeeded only in cutting off his ear, and then fled. Peter followed at a distance but found that he would only deny that he ever knew Jesus and fulfill Jesus’ prophecy. But the Holy Spirit would come.

Fear! The misapplication of faith. The fear that I am unable to fulfill the call Jesus has place on my life. And, thus, I am paralyzed and inactive and filled with feelings of hopelessness. And the reason for the fear, the doubt, and the unbelief is a gross misunderstanding of the words of Jesus in the next part of His sermon: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (The bold and underline is mine to emphasize my point.) What I have done with this sermon is to turn it into law rather than realize that Jesus has fulfilled the law. Rather than attempt what has actually proven impossible I must follow Jesus in His Way of Love because He has fulfilled the Law and the Prophets.

I am challenged by this. I find that when I look at myself and my life I have, indeed, lost my saltiness. I certainly have not lived according to the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount. I do not see myself as one who acts as a preservative in the world or one who makes things in the world taste better. 

I do not see myself as a light set on a lampstand. I do not find that I am shedding light into anyone else’s life. I am not set on a hill like a city; but I have been hidden. Why have I been hidden and am not shedding my light? Why am I not a preservative in the world and one who makes things around me more tasty?

Fear! The misapplication of faith. The fear that I am unable to fulfill the call Jesus has place on my life. And, thus, I am paralyzed and inactive and filled with feelings of hopelessness. And the reason for the fear, the doubt, and the unbelief is a gross misunderstanding of the words of Jesus in the next part of His sermon: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (The bold and underline is mine to emphasize my point.) What I have done with this sermon is to turn it into law rather than realize that Jesus has fulfilled the law. Rather than attempt what has actually proven impossible I must follow Jesus in His Way of Love because He has fulfilled the Law and the Prophets.

Following Jesus in the Way of Love places me in a very unique position in all of history in both heaven and earth. By following Jesus in the Way of Love I enter into Jesus. I exchange my life for His. I actually die. This is what Jesus was talking about. If I were to cling to my life by trying to fulfill what Jesus has already fulfilled I will fail to live over and over again. However, if I die to any attempt to fulfill the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount or the other teachings of Jesus and examples of His life and death I live according to the life He gives me.

We see the effect of these attempts to live in the lives of the disciples who lived with Jesus for 3 ½ years during His ministry. They quarreled over which of them was the greatest. James and John tried to get Jesus to promise them a place at His right and left hands in the coming kingdom. At least three times Jesus taught them that He was to go to Jerusalem, die at the hands of the high priests, and be raised on the third day. They did not understand. When Jesus was arrested Peter tried to cut off the head of a servant of the High Priest, succeeded only in cutting off his ear, and then fled. Peter followed at a distance but found that he would only deny that he ever knew Jesus and fulfill Jesus’ prophecy. But the Holy Spirit would come.

After the coming of the Holy Spirit Peter preached a sermon that resulted in the salvation of 3,000. The words of Jesus were truly fulfilled and the church was established on the fact that Jesus is the Christ.

When I attempt to fulfill the Law I find that I am helpless to do so. I cannot be salt and light. However, when I accept the fact that Jesus has fulfilled the Law and Prophets and die to my own attempts I then live the life of Jesus in this fallen world and He becomes salt and light in me, through me, and around me. Jesus’s life, lived in us, witnesses to the fact that Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets in us.

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Finishing the Work

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And, now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (John 17: 1b – 5 NIV)

One of my basic beliefs, or tenants of faith, is that we are to become like Jesus and follow in His footsteps. We are called to do the very things that Jesus did. I express this in terms of the fruit and gifts of the Spirit:

The fruit of the Spirit represent for me the character of Jesus. Love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience or longsuffering), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (temperance) are all characteristics that Jesus displayed when He walked among us. I have put in parenthesis some alternative meanings from various translations to give a broader range of meaning of the original text.

The gifts of the Spirit represent for me the power that Jesus walked in when He was with us. He demonstrated a word of knowledge, a word of wisdom, discernment of spirits, faith, healings, miracles, and prophecy as He taught among us and interacted with us.

The language I use may seem a little strange; but I consider the study of Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit to interact in our lives today so that it would appear that Jesus is actually still walking among us. The scriptural basis for this is two-fold:

  1. “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (John 16: 21 – 24 NIV) This refers to His appearance after the resurrection but also refers to our intimate connection with Father empowering us to be and act as Jesus.
  2. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you. (John 16: 12 – 15 NIV) Instruction, guidance, prophetic intervention, ideas, concepts, purpose, direction, and inspiration are all what the Holy Spirit brings constantly into our lives. Jesus is showing here that the presence of the Holy Spirit among us is equivalent to Jesus being among us.

I entitled this article “Finishing the Work” because I believe that Jesus has assigned specific tasks for us to complete. We are the hands and feet of Jesus in the world today. We are the physical continuation of the incarnation of Christ. We have been told by the Holy Spirit to accomplish certain things. What Jesus prayed as recorded in John 17 included the statement, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” It is our job, as representatives of Jesus, to finish the work we have been given to do so that we will bring glory to God. Bringing glory to the Father was the goal and purpose of the life of Jesus. We are to continue that work!

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Fragile Community

“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, `Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16: 1 – 7 NIV)

All of the men that Jesus was addressing with these words died as martyrs except John, who penned the words. John was boiled in oil during persecution for his faith. John also wrote the book of Revelation while imprisoned on the island of Patmos: “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 1: 9 NIV) After recovery from this imprisonment and suffering John was carried on a blanket to the church in Ephesus and while being carried would constantly repeat, “Love one another.”

These men were able to grasp the vision that giving one’s life or suffering for the gospel was really a very small thing. What really matters is love. The coming of the Holy Spirit made it possible for us to do what Jesus had taught and lived. We are now able to love one another. We are now able to follow what would be the last command of Jesus: “This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15: 17 NIV)

Kayla Mueller, Peter Kassig, and James Foley were long held hostages by Islamic State and died while in their hands. In today’s MSN news letters home from them have been published. They all expressed that their greatest sadness in captivity was the suffering that their loved ones back home were experiencing. They all expressed the gratefulness they felt knowing they were being prayed for and they all expressed that they were praying for those back home. They expressed hope and expectation of eventually being released because others in captivity with them were released. They expressed no regret in the good they had done or in the fact that they had dedicated their lives to relieving in some way the suffering in the world.

Jesus did not die to bring peace. He knew that we would face persecution and opposition to attempting to bring love into the world just as He had. We all know that if all in the world lived as Jesus lived there would be no more turmoil and no more suffering. But we all also know that it will never happen. What we are living is a reality that is both cruel and harsh but at the very same time is full of wonder and glory beyond description. We who follow God the Father, through Jesus Christ, His Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit are living eternal life right now. Of course, we will go to heaven. We will go to heaven because we are already connected to God. We will go to heaven because we have a love relationship with God. We will go to heaven because God has provided that we will always be with Him and heaven is where He is.

But, heaven is really not the point. Living on earth in this fragile community all around us is really what it is all about. These recent martyrs who have joined the myriad thousand who have gone before them will rule and reign now and forever with Jesus Christ in heaven and, eventually, on earth when it is transformed. Yes, that transformation is actually in the process of happening all around us.

There are two kinds of reactions to the events of these martyrdoms. Kayla Mueller, Peter Kassig, and James Foley have not died in vain. Many more will lift up the cause of loving others and continue to live as Jesus lived.

Others will use their deaths to advocate war and revenge. This would be exactly the opposite of their desires; but it will happen none the less.

There is also another kind of event that is happening in our fragile community. This is illustrated by the three deaths of university aged Muslims in North Carolina. The family of these students are asking that these murders be investigated and prosecuted as hate crimes because the three were Muslims. We agree that such an investigation is warranted. However, from reading the background material of the alleged perpetrator it would seem that the motive was simply a dispute over a parking space by a constantly angry individual. One report quoted a person as saying of him that he was an equal opportunity angry man who was angry at everyone regardless of race, color, or religion.

Let us set aside the anger, the hatred, and the violence and become equal opportunity lovers as Jesus taught.

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