As I write this update today, I have many things running through my mind. There is the news of the past few days, telling of unfolding world shaking events; there are the increasing attacks on Christians around the world; there are the stories of great faith and perseverance of true believers in Jesus Christ who have gone through unimaginable horror, yet persevered. I would like to touch on each of these in today’s Mideast Update.
For the past three weeks I have been especially blessed and encouraged because of the miracle of a large group of sheikhs that became believers in Jesus Christ as they listened in on a Bible teaching about the Blood of Jesus in Iraq. It only took them hearing some simple truths that most of us in the free world take for granted; simple doctrinal absolutes of Who Jesus really is, and why His Blood has the power no other blood in the universe has.
Since the date of their commitment to Messiah Jesus, they have been studying diligently and learning as much as they can so that they can reach out and teach their own groups of Muslim followers the truths that can only be found in the Word of God. A number of these men were head sheikhs and so have a considerable following and also have great influence with these people. The volunteer missionaries of House of Blessing teach as many hours a day as it takes in order to mentor the new believers. They all understand the shortness of the hour we live in. From the reports I have received, it has been a glorious time.
Yesterday, I received a call telling me of a tragedy that had just unfolded. A number of the new believers from the group of sheikhs were gathered together and had been taught for several hours, finishing up with their study of Part 9 of “The Blood of Jesus” at about 8:00 in the evening. As they began to head home, fifteen of these men were ambushed by ISIS jihadists, who then executed them. Some were shot to death outright, and others beheaded. Most of them, if not all, had crosses carved into their faces with knives. We in the West are not used to this kind of brutish savagery…and all in the name of religion–in this case, Islam–in the name of Allah and his prophet Muhammad.
It was Brother Omar who got the news first and went to see for himself. When he passed on the tragic news to Pastor R*****, Omar was overcome, saying no one should ever have to come across a scene like what he had just witnessed. He openly cried as he described it. Omar and Adel, who he works with closely, were not shaken in their faith, but were hit hard with the outright slaughter of these new brethren. It is our job as their brothers and sisters in the Lord to stand with them by earnestly praying for them.
I am reminded of a passage of Scripture that I have referred to before in these updates over the last 3-1/2 years. It is found in Hebrews 11 and reads in the New King James Version of the Scriptures this way:
…others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented–of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better of us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. (verses 36-40)
This Scripture goes on to say:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (chapter 12:1-2)
These first two verses of chapter twelve encourage each believer to make sure that all priorities are set in order. It is Messiah Jesus whom we are serving, and He did not stop short of paying the ultimate price for our freedom. We must therefore live for Him until He removes us from this earth, by whatever means that may be.
During these last few days, Mofidah and “The Widow Sisterhood” also took a heavy loss. The widows having been working in the northern areas of Syria and Iraq. As most readers know, the widows work in areas where there are great numbers of wounded and dead, mainly from the explosion of bombs and missiles. As they check bodies for those who might still be alive, they never know when another bombing is coming. Over the past months, quite a number of these widows have lost their lives while trying to save the lives–and souls, of the injured and dying. Eight more of these brave women were killed in the last few days. This bombing run also killed a great number of civilians, including some children with whom the widows have been sharing Bible stories. It is such a tragedy, the great amount of chaos that is sweeping over the Middle East. The incessant bombing, not only by NATO coalition members, but also Bashar al-Assad’s military, the more recent involvement of Turkey’s air force, and now the heavily armed Russian military forces are adding to the numbers of dead, injured, and displaced. Iran’s military involvement is also increasing as they join forces with Russia and Hezbollah, allies of Assad.
This last week, about 160 souls were reached by Mofidah’s widows! I don’t have a number for those that were reached by the other missionaries in Iraq and Syria, Kurdistan, or Jordan this week. The numbers are not always available, nor are they of the utmost importance. In both Kurdistan and Iran, the HOB missionaries have been working slowly, carefully and methodically. In most areas the believers are meeting secretly, and in hundreds of locations across the Mideast. I did get the report that HOB missionaries saw 15 families reached this last week in Iran. Because of the large size of families in this part of the world, this can be a substantial number of new believers. Praise God!
As I have shared before, there is now so much killing and chaos that people quite often actively search for the missionaries–not just for help with food and supplies, but because they are becoming ashamed of Islam. They see it for what it really is, and they know that much of the rest of the world sees it as well. They have nothing whatsoever left to live for, except to find out if there is a Truth beyond what they have been taught all their lives through Islam. This is where the missionaries provide the answer they are so desperate for. In the months past, the UN had been supplying about 45% of the most basic food needs of the refugees, but that seems to have disintegrated. HOB has stepped in, buying wheat by the truck load as the funds are available. Through the keeping alive of these desperate people, door opens easily for sharing the true love of God with these people. How often will a person share their last piece of bread with a stranger? How often does the hated infidel share wheat with the ones that are committed to killing them? This is the result of the love of God changing a person’s nature. Hallelujah! And, it was Jesus who commanded us to feed the poor!
The chaos will continue to get worse until the Prince of Peace brings order to this dying world. As we see it today, World War 3 is becoming more and more imminent. The fuse has already been lit. It is amazing how convoluted the situation is becoming. There are over two dozen jihadist groups, many of them fighting and destroying each other. There is also a coalition of nations claiming to be there to deal with the brutality and threat of ISIS. The NATO coalition is also backing rebels in Syria that seek to depose Bashar al-Assad, the long-time Syrian dictator. While this is going on, Turkey has now joined the fight, supposedly as a NATO ally against ISIS. Yet, the Kurds, who are also fighting against ISIS, are being viciously attacked by Turkey’s air force. The Russian Federation is also coming in with heavy forces and weaponry to prop up Bashar al-Assad. They have said they are there to fight ISIS as well. Yet, they are also fiercely attacking the same rebels that the Pentagon is backing against Assad! Then there is Iran, which is also in the mix. Iran is also fighting ISIS, and is allied with Assad, Hezbollah, and Russia. While all this is going on, Iran continues to threaten the very existence of Israel and shouts “Death to America!” Hamas and Hezbollah are sworn enemies of Israel, as are most of the Middle East nations. Israel gets attacked by Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinians, and Iran is attempting to set up a beachhead in the Golan Heights on Israel’s northeastern border. Israel has always been able to control attacks from over the border from Lebanon or Syria with their own powerful air force, yet they are now being told by Russia to stay out of the skies of Lebanon and Syria. America, who has always been Israel’s ally, is also being told to stay out of Syria and Lebanon’s skies by Russia, is now turning its back on its little brother. And, this is all only scratching the surface of the mayhem in the Middle East! Wars and rumors of wars!!
At the beginning of this update, I mentioned that I’ve been thinking much about the increasing attacks on Christians around the world. I would never have thought that I would be including the execution of Christians right here in the United States of America! At least, not yet. Yet, this is exactly what has happened a few days ago in the small town of Roseburg, Oregon. Most have now heard about the gunman who shot his way into the classrooms of Umpqua Community College. After he had sprayed one room with bullets, many lay injured or in total terror. He then demanded that people get off the floor and state what religion they were. When they admitted that they were Christians, he informed them that he was going to send them to meet God in about one second and then shot them in the head. Others that either did not say they were Christian, or just didn’t respond, he shot in the legs. Before it was over, there were nine dead and another nine injured. During a shootout with the police, the shooter himself was killed.
This event, in “small town” America, shocked millions of people, but are a precursor for more of the same. Jesus warned us that because the world hated Him, the world would also hate us. Could it be that we Christians here in the West are going to be appreciating the prayers of Christians in other parts of the world as much as they need and appreciate ours today? I think so! It’s not enough to just offer a cursory prayer saying, “Please God, bless the missionaries,” but we need to be praying earnestly for others as they will pray earnestly for us.
It’s time for us all to recognize the gravity of the times we are living in. These are the days just prior to the return of the Messiah. Satan is about to be allowed to unleash his worst on this wicked world. Elijah told the Israelites gathered on Mount Carmel, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” The same question could be asked of many of us that consider ourselves church-goers today as well. Who is it that we are truly serving? Are we sold out? If we are not 100% committed, we will not survive the hatred of the world for the Nazarene and His followers! It is time to lay it all on the line. Eternity is right around the corner for us all…for some, sooner than others!
I would like to close this update with a short but incredible story that comes out of Indonesia. I was given this verified account by a good American Evangelist friend of mine. It was in fact, included in a sermon delivered at my own church when he was the guest speaker there recently. As most know, Indonesia is a Muslim nation and it is illegal for anyone to preach any other gospel than the one given by the prophet Muhammad. Many have given their lives while sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in this nation. This story is of a native Christian pastor who was caught preaching about Jesus one day. He was ordered to stop preaching in the Name of Jesus or he would be executed. He however could not agree to keep his mouth shut, and so continued evangelizing. As he was preaching one day, he was confronted again but this time, he was not let go. The Muslims who caught him beheaded him that day, throwing his body down on one side of the road and his head on the other. This was done as a brutal reminder to anyone else who would dare make the same mistake.
A couple of days later, a Muslim man walking down the road, and seeing the headless body and the head laying on opposite sides of the road, decided that even a non-Muslim did not deserve to have his head separated from the decomposing body this way. He picked up the pastor’s severed head and laid it with the body and walked on. After he had walked down the road a little distance, he heard a rustling sound behind him. He turned around, and what he saw was beyond imagination! Without anyone being beside the decapitated man, this detached head was reattaching itself to the lifeless body. He was horrified but could not help but watch as the man got up off of the side of the road and walked up to him. They then walked into the town and this pastor preached to three separate crowds, with this Muslim man as a witness. Many in crowds knew this Christian pastor and so at the end of each preaching, 100% of the listeners became committed believers in Jesus Christ!
Now, I know some of you are saying, “No, this is beyond even normal supernatural manifestations! How can this possibly be? This has to be someone’s wild haired exaggeration!” Here’s a question to ponder: Where do you draw the line between an “easy” or “hard” miracle? Can you draw that line? Which of us can even heal a broken or torn fingernail? Is it harder for God to heal a torn fingernail, a blind eye, restore a withered hand, calm a vicious storm, or reattach a severed head to a lifeless body? If it is God, there is no limit to what He can, or will do! I will always lean on the side of believing an unbelievable story when God is involved! Think of the very tiny cells within the human body. Scientists tell us that an individual cell is more complicated than the entire city of New York! Who can do that? Could he cause the blood to be replaced in a body that has bled out? Can He reattach the head of a person that has been beheaded? Absolutely. Does He always do so? Absolutely not. Yet, in His sovereignty, He can choose to do so…and I will not be the one to question His ability or reasoning!
In the days just ahead, I suspect the true Body of Christ is going to see and experience things that we would never have dreamed possible. Are you up to it? Will you allow your faith to be challenged to grow? I pray that is the case with every reader of this update! Dangerous times ahead…Exciting time ahead…!
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. he restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalms 23)
House of Blessing; P.O. Box 2093; Redmond, Oregon USA 97756