If you are familiar with the “Jerusalem Updates” on this blog site, you will undoubtedly find the following story very impacting. If you are not familiar with how the updates started, you will want to check the Archived portion of the blog site. While “Jerusalem Update” started with a chance encounter in Jerusalem in March 2012, the stories of God moving in the Middle East from that original Jerusalem encounter are spreading much further than Israel.
In this “Middle East Update,” I would like to tell a story that I will never forget as long as I live.
On Friday, 2/14/2014, I was anticipating receiving what has become a weekly phone call from House of Blessing founder, Pastor R****. We have become close friends and Brothers in the Lord over the past 2 years, and his phone calls are always a source of blessing for us as we hear the news of what God is doing there, and then have the opportunity to pray for, and be prayed for by, R****.
On that Friday, he was of course still in Syria where he has been for about a year. I asked him how he was, and he said he had no complaints, that God was taking good care of him and the miracles were continuing. He told me he had someone there with him named Nabil (emphasis on the last syllable). Nabil apparently was anxious to speak with me and I found that he could speak some broken English. R**** also told me that Nabil was one of the sheikhs (a learned person/leader in Islam), who had been reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by Rami’s father (see Archives for Rami’s miraculous healing). Nabil had been a believer for a number of months now and was being trained to become R****’s assistant there in Syria. Without saying much more than this, he put Nabil on the phone.
As soon as Nabil started to talk, it was easy to tell that this was a genuinely transformed man! Although having been a head Muslim religious sheikh for over 20 years, he was no longer worshipping Allah! You could sense the sparkle in his eyes as he expressed his excitement to be able to talk with me over the phone. He said that Pastor R**** had spoken of his friendship with me and my wife so much that he had been looking forward to this opportunity to talk with me.
Nabil and I spoke for about 30 minutes. I had no way of recording the call, but I wish I could have done so because it was so encouraging and uplifting to hear first hand what God was doing on a very personal level in the war-torn country of Syria. God is bringing life to these people and their joy is “unspeakable and full of glory!”
Nabil mentioned his regret that he had been teaching from the wrong book (Quran) for the past 20 years. But now, he said, he was spending all his time telling everyone he could about Jesus Christ! Nabil said this with such excitement and fervor that I could not help but ask myself if I had the same fervor for serving my Lord that Nabil did! He was so excited and animated in the things he had to say, even though struggling with English a bit. He then began talking about the blog articles that he has been receiving. I was embarrassed by his generous and exuberant compliments, and absolutely surprised that he was so familiar with the postings which are being translated into Arabic and dispersed far and wide.
He said that he had learned much from them and because of having had many years experience in teaching people, he was enjoying passing on the things from the Bible that he was learning! He spoke of the hunger the people had for the true Word of God.
(I should make a quick comment here. There is probably no one that does not appreciate people recognizing efforts taken that bring good things about, and I am no different. Yet, God is the Lord of the harvest, not us. God gives us the privilege and honor of having a little part in the big things He is doing on this earth. We have the opportunity to obey and cooperate with Him. Whatever good things are said by others about me personally or Anne and I as a couple, or anyone else for that matter, need to be kept in perspective. We are servants of the Most High, nothing less and nothing more…On the other hand, I would not want people to miss being made aware of what God is doing. The harvest that is in process is unprecedented and absolutely amazing! Whatever good things are said by these wonderful people should bring glory to our God and not to us as His servants!)
After that 30 minutes with Nabil, R**** came back on the phone. We prayed as usual, and then the call was over.
The following Friday, 2/21/2014, I received another expected call from R**** and, as usual, we shared some small talk and then asked each other how we were. He told me he had both good things and difficult things to share once again as he had promised me long ago that he would with his phone updates.
R**** said that the work of the ministry is continuing full speed ahead. There were many thousands finding the Lord every single week. He mentioned that they were able to pick up another 500 Bibles from money that had come in and they were getting them distributed as far as they would go. He also shared that there were reports of many miracles happening as the people prayed for one another. I asked R**** what his day is usually like. He said he teaches in several hour shifts, usually for about 10-12 hours a day or so. He then spends two to three hours praying for people that come by his tent. He expressed God’s faithfulness in changing people spiritually but also healing many of their sicknesses at this most difficult time of the year.
R**** then spoke much about Nabil. He said that Nabil had been so very excited after our conversation the week before. (An Arab tongue has a hard time saying the long “A” in Jake, so both R**** and Nabil pronounce my name “Jack”, and it makes me smile!) Nabil told him, “I so much enjoyed talking with this man of God.” He gave me other “titles” that I must admit blessed me because they mean that God is able to use the little I do for His purposes! That was very encouraging to me. Nabil said that he particularly enjoyed our discussion about the Apostle John because he had become quite interested in the Book of Revelation and wanted to learn more.
R**** shared that they spent some wonderful hours into the night talking about the Lord and the things that were happening on this earth. They spoke of many things, way into the early morning hours. One of the things they discussed was a mosque owned by Nabil located about 100 km from the border in an area where there were few Christians. Nabil had decided to sell the mosque and was asking $400,000. There was no possibility of turning it into a church in its location. It would never survive. He had received an offer of $125,000 for the mosque and had now decided that he was going to take that offer and use the money to buy more Bibles. So, the next morning he was going to meet with the prospective buyers, get the paperwork completed, take the money and buy as many Bibles as the money would pay for. What a blessing! He was so excited to know that more of his fellow Arabs would come to know his Jesus Messiah!
As they were talking, Nabil suddenly began pointing out the doorway of the tent and said to R****, “Do you see THAT?” R**** said he didn’t see anything, but Nabil began describing an open vision he was having. In this vision, Nabil said that he saw this beautiful rainbow–the most beautiful and colorful rainbow he had ever seen. He said that there was a bright light source there as well but he could not quite determine where it was coming from. As his description continued, he said that he saw the most beautiful place he has ever seen, not possibly part of this earth! He said that there were lots of people there. Nabil said that they were laughing, running around, having a grand time, playing, and worshipping God. This looked like Paradise to him! Then Nabil looked at R**** and said, “The people are looking right at me and waving for me to come and join them! They want me to come and be with them in this paradise!!”
The whole while, R**** was not able to see any of this but knew quite well that it was real. Nabil had had his eyes opened to see into a dimension that humans can’t normally see. God had given him a special gift!
Then R****’s voice broke as he told me the rest of this wonderful story. The arrangement that Nabil had agreed to for the sale of the mosque turned out to be a trap. About ten men met him at the mosque and brutally beat him. Then, his own 32-year-old son who had taken part in the attack knifed his father to death. Nabil’s wife, who is also a believer, having been led to the Lord by her husband, left immediately. She was afraid they would kill her too and she didn’t want to see her son after witnessing what he had done.
R**** told me this story and just cried. It was very difficult knowing exactly what to say at this point. R**** has seen so very many of these tragic deaths that it is overwhelming at times. Yet, there were several things God made very clear. God is never caught off-guard with anything! Did He know what was going to happen? Of course! This is likely why the Lord gave Nabil the vision of Paradise he had. Without him knowing it at the time, he was given comfort for the terrible few moments coming the next day. I’m sure it only took seconds for Nabil to remember his vision of the night before when he saw what he had walked into.
There was another thought that the Lord put in my mind as R**** was telling me this story. Attacks on the Kingdom of God like this one are never successful. In killing Nabil, the devil only shot himself in the foot. God will more than make up for what may seem like a temporary victory for the evil one. God will cause the devil to wish he had never touched him. Does this sound like misplaced bravado? It’s not. God has been way ahead of the devil all along. No matter how bad things look, God’s ultimate plan is right on schedule. And…those of us who are true followers of Christ are going home soon! The door to the ark is about to shut.
After I was told the story of Nabil, R**** also told me of another five of the missionary men who were shot and killed for sharing the Gospel. He had already sent men to locate their widows so they could try and help meet their needs. These are real people with real families. They have just given their all because of their love for Christ.
In spite of the tragic news, which I have heard so many times now, God is doing an amazing thing. I am being told that there are many hundreds of thousands of believers in the Mideast now who are studying their Bibles. What a privilege it is to have a little part in the great thing God is doing in these last moments of time in this dispensation!
Please be part of this amazing harvest. Tell others this story! Pray for these folks; I mean really PRAY for them, earnestly, with heartfelt tears and compassion. Pray for Nabil’s killers, especially his own son! God’s arm is not short that he cannot snatch this young man out of the enemy’s camp! We’ve already witnessed God’s grace and mercy reach other killers this last two years. The Christians are undergoing unspeakable horrors, but God is able to bring victory in the midst of all of this tragedy. Pray that Nabil’s widow will be able to forgive her son. Ask the Lord to lead you to know how to pray.
I would like to share a couple last thoughts. Yesterday, while in my study, the Lord interrupted my thoughts twice. The first time He spoke to me without warning, He said: “This is now the sprint to the finish line!” Let that sink in for a moment. God doesn’t say such a thing for no reason!
About an hour or so later God spoke to my heart again. This time He said, “I really am coming to take you (plural) home VERY SOON now!” I don’t know how to convey to you, the reader, what God did to me inside when He said that. I have always believed in the imminence of His coming for His own, but this was something I have never quite felt before. I have heard about the Lord’s coming all my life, and many of you have, too. Put that away for the moment. We have let it put us to sleep. In fact, we have let it make us nearly avoid the entire thought of Jesus’ imminent return for His children! We have heard it and heard it. Many leaders, to their own shame and in damage to many followers, have foolishly given a date to the Lord’s return. Yet, Jesus said that only the Father in heaven knows the exact time. Jesus however gave us the command to be ever watchful, so that we are not caught off-guard like the rest of the world will be!
Here is my concern. For months now I have been urged by God’s Spirit to keep reminding people that “time is over!” It is surprising how unpopular that stance is! “There he goes again!! Always talking about prophecy and the imminent end of the age! He’s a little beside himself!” That’s what they always said about the prophets in the Old Testament. In fact, even Jesus’ own family accused Him with those same words!
In difficult places in the world, Christian people are more than willing to accept that they must be prepared and watching for the appearing of Jesus in the clouds to call His own home. It is easier to do when you’ve lost everything! But for most in the West, I’m afraid that we easily say that we are looking forward to this but in our heart of hearts, we’re enjoying the trappings of the world way too much! I’m afraid that maybe only 10% of those who make the “Christian” claim in America will be ready when that moment happens. How sad!! Please be ready!
As I’ve said so many times, whatever you have had the Lord lay on your heart to do in obedience to Him, it needs to be done quickly. Don’t be caught holding onto everything you can’t take with you into eternity and miss the opportunity to be part of this amazing ingathering that is happening today!
“As we live faithfully before God, He will use our obedience for His purposes and imbue our lives with significance far beyond what we could ever imagine.” Author unknown.
God Bless, and Keep Looking Up,