Signs and Wonders to the Muslim Heart

1 07 2009

The way into the Muslim heart is through signs and wonders.

My brother, a chaplain in the United States Air Force recently returned from Iraq with some interesting news.  Firstly, I must say that military clergy are very much restricted in how they share the gospel, so much so that they hardly seem representative of a free country.  Great pains are taken in policy to assure that they do not force their religion on anyone, to the point that they cannot share their beliefs with the people of that nation unless specifically asked to do so.

An Iraqi man and his son came in to the military hospital with burn injuries.  Apparently, the Iraqi hospital was next to useless in terms of receiving real care.  The son was seriously burned over his body because he had fallen into the open cooking fire in their house.  The father had burned his own hands pulling his son out of the fire.  The father was worried that he would lose his job because he hadn’t been able to tell his workplace that he was in the hospital.  He was also worried that he wouldn’t be able to do his job anyway, because of the injuries to his hands.  My brother prayed for him and also had his workplace notified that the reason he wasn’t showing up to work was that he was in the hospital.  The father also asked him to pray for his son, who was in a different section of the hospital.  The son had blood poisoning  (septicemia), and was bloated, lying there hooked up to tubes.  My brother had seen a lot of people at the burn unit he had worked at for a while, and many died even though he prayed for them.  Since the father had asked him to pray for the boy, and there was no one around except a Catholic nurse, he anointed the boy with oil and prayed the Scriptures in Jesus’ name.  During or after the prayer, he felt the power of God surge through his body and out through his hand to the boy.  This told him that something significant was happening.  It was some time later that he encountered the two again.  They were really excited to see him.  The man’s hand was totally healed.  The boy was totally healthy and the only remnant of his injuries was the appearance of new skin.

In another case, a young Muslim man had serious wounds and was continually in a lot of pain.  He asked my brother to pray for him, and he did.  The next day was his day off (he got one day off per week).  When he returned the second day after the prayer, he found that the Muslims had been excitedly asking where he was all during his day off.  He found the man that he had prayed for, who had been in continual pain, and the pain had completely cleared after the prayer and stayed away permanently.   One Muslim man made the sign of the cross after my brother spoke and prayed with him, and the interpreter was flabbergasted and told him later that it was basically a statement of conversion.  By the time his tour was up and he had to return home, the Iraqis were bringing their friends to come and see this “Christian imam,” to whose prayers God listened.

The way into the heart of the Muslim is through signs and wonders.  Consequently, any effective witness in their world must be full of the Spirit and ready to pray for miracles.  The result of their faith, the sort of faith that germinates from a seed to a fully grown mustard plant with the water of the Holy Spirit, is that more miracles are likely to take place among them in testimony of Christ than would otherwise be seen in the western world.  Americans have been infected with a bad case of Hollywood.  Miracles are for entertainment purposes, not for conviction, in the eye of the American unbeliever.  Consequently, miracles are less likely to happen on this continent in the testimony of our Lord.

When Napoleon invaded Egypt, I’ve heard it said that his opponents roused the native population against him using magic tricks of the illusionist sort.  His response was to send in his own magicians to counter the spiritualist claims of his enemies.  This brings us to the dark flip side of the coin.  The way into the Muslim heart, even for Satan, is through signs and wonders.  In the last days, the Antichrist will use sorcery to bring the Muslims into his kingdom.  I feel entirely convinced that, while he himself will be a westerner, he will be proclaimed the Twelfth Imam, returned, by the Shiite clergy of Iran.  I’ve been saying this since before Iran began asserting itself  to become the blemish that it is today.  The false prophet of the Antichrist will be an Iranian leader, for certain.  In those days, it will be much like the battles between Moses and the Pharaoh’s magicians, for God will send two witnesses to wage war against the Antichrist through miracles of the Heavenly kind.  After all, the way into the Muslim, Arabic, and Persian heart is through signs and wonders.

We have before us both a great opportunity and a tremendous nightmare.  Either we will face this challenge with missionaries with the courage to pray for the impossible, or we will bypass this battleground and cede it directly to the enemy.  We could have the advantage of arriving first, before the enemy comes, but this moment will fade.  I’ve tried to avoid getting into End Times prophecy, because I’ve literally been writing about it since I was four years old, and I’m rather burned-out with the whole thing, but I felt this much needed to be said.  Tomorrow’s Napoleon, tomorrow’s Hitler and tomorrow’s Stalin will wage a war of sorcery, unlike anything the world has yet seen.  Will Christians rise to the battle, armed with faith and power?

Or will they watch television all night?

I know it’s frustrating, because it’s something that goes beyond us.  All we can do is pray, and there’s no guarantee that anything will come of it.  Even so, I tend to think that it must be worth the effort.


The Resurrectionist

27 06 2009

Does anyone ever pray for the dead?  I’m not talking about the Mormon practice of praying for ancestors, or the old Catholic practice of buying indulgences to get people out of purgatory.  Does anyone ever pray that the dead will be resurrected, or is our faith in death stronger than our faith in God?  If Jesus could bring Lazarus back from the dead, and if the bones of Elisha can bring some stranger back to life, then a prayer for a dead man is not beyond the limits of our doctrine.  People have been brought to life again.  My grandfather, a pastor of a small church, prayed for a dead man, and that man came back to life again.  He had been certifiably dead.  My grandfather didn’t expect anything to happen, but it did.  He only prayed because members of his congregation insisted on it.  People have been to Hell and back.  People have been to the gates of Heaven and back.

As with any miracle, the deed eventually becomes undone with time.  The resurrected eventually die.  The final resurrection at the end of time will be another matter, but for now all things are temporary.  However, God’s purpose is never temporary, so while we aim for a second chance at life, he aims for a second chance at eternal life, either for the one brought back, or for those who knew him.

People pray for the most terminal of illnesses, but they draw the line at death, the most terminal of all illnesses.  However, the last signs of life are still barely going in a corpse long after death.  Your hair and fingernails will long outlive you.  They grow very long on a dead body.  When does the last living cell finally become aware of its fate and follow suit?  In a sense, death is only a systemic illness, destined to win over the entire body, eventually.  The brain is dead, and the spirit is gone, but something in that darkness yet shines.

To be sure, the miracle of resurrection could not happen much of the time even if everyone prayed for every fatality all of the time.  Miracles that happen daily are taken for granted.  We don’t even call them miracles anymore.  Every breath is made possible by an act of God.  The breath of a dead man is no farther beyond God’s ability than the breath of a living one.  The question is not whether God can do it, but whether or not God would do it.  A man brought back from Hell, would he do more harm than good to the world?  A man brought back from Heaven, would the world do more harm than good to him?  If a person were brought to life outside of prayer, then who would get the glory?  Perhaps every case is different, and perhaps even among similar cases different treatment would be advised.

But a man need not be a model citizen to be brought back.  No one, in fact, deserves a second chance.  The only achievement  that all can claim is that we have all managed to increase entropy during our stay on this rock, and we’ve all managed to botch our theology in one way or another.  We all sin.  We’re all selfish at heart.  People are not often shocked at the suggestion of Hell for an unusually evil man, but everyone is shocked at the suggestion of Hell for themselves.  It’s like the poop in a toilet crying out, “Why me?!” as it flushes into the sewer, “Take the diarrhea; take the constipation, but don’t take me!  I don’t deserve to get flushed!  I’m a supple, well-formed log!”

I would argue, though, that every dead body should at least get one prayer.  Let God decide the outcome, but endeavor, at least, to ask.  I’m not talking about the prayer where we pray for Heaven to open its gates to the soul of the departed.  That prayer really is pointless.  Either the soul is going to Heaven, or it isn’t.  I’m not talking about the prayer for comfort to those left behind, good as it may be.  I’ve never really understood why we should be comfortable with death, though.  It is the wage of sin.  It’s definitely a bad thing to its core.  When a man clearly went to Hell, why do we stand around and comfort ourselves with platitudes?  This is insane.  A soul in Hell is an utter outrage.  No, what I suggest is that we get in the habit of praying for resurrection, and all other kinds of healing.  If we lose our faith in the miraculous, then the Spirit of God will surely pass over us and continue on its way.

It’s easy to have faith in the healing of a living person, though it isn’t a hope for the miraculous so much as it pretends to be.  Praying for a dead man is a real test of faith.  There exists no natural mechanism for making that happen, so that when it does happen, there’s no easy way to rationalize it away.  Praying for a broken bone to heal is easy.  Praying for a corpse to sit up and talk takes guts.  The vast majority of the time nothing happens, and that takes a spine of steel to deal with, but every now and then something does happen, and that’s no easy matter to sleep on, either.

But God is a master of the miraculous, and we treat him like a hamster, running in his wheel, going nowhere.


Perceptual Fog

17 03 2009

We experience in the past.  We act in the future.  By the time it’s reconstructed in our minds, the event is over, and by the time our bodies move to respond, it’s already the future.  Somewhere in between the two lies an infinitely narrow time span known as now.  Now doesn’t exist for any length of time.  It’s not even now by the time we acknowledge it.  It’s never now, because now is like two parentheses with nothing between them.  It’s not a long enough time span to contain any event.  Now is simply the interface between the future and the past.  It’s never now, yet it’s always now.  We exist in the now.  It is now now, yet, it is never now.  Between one second and the next, there are an infinite number of slices of time that at some point could have been called “now,” and each of those slices would be infinitely thin.  It’s another case of infinity divided by infinity.  What does it equal?  Sometimes it equals a second.  Sometimes it equals a year or more.  It’s yet another metaphysical mystery, because to study the laws of physics and their causes is to study the laws of metaphysics.

Sure, if all we did was study the effects of time on the world we know, then we’d only be studying physics, but when we wonder about the forces giving rise to time, then we step outside of the physical universe to examine it circumspectly.  An infinite number of nows could be a second, or it could be a year, so what makes the two any different from each other?  The perception of time arises from the effects that events have on the brain with time.  A year’s worth of events change the workings of the brain in terms of memories.  It works in cycles.  Each thought is experienced over and over, making a thought last for longer than a fleeting fraction of a second.  The more times a cycle runs through the brain, the greater the perception of time.  The key is that the brain, like the world around us, is a product of cause and effect.  Everything that it is now is the result of cumulative effects from the past.  In the next moment, there will have been a few more effects enacted upon it, and the workings of the mind will be slightly different as a result.

The brain can’t know the future, because it hasn’t been affected by the future yet.  The future is just as real as the past, but we just can’t perceive it because cause and effect only work in one direction.  To know the future is to violate this principle, and reverse this order.  This gives us every reason to fear the future, because we cannot see it clearly.  Had cause and effect generally worked in the opposite direction, then what we call the future now, would functionally be the past, and vice versa.  We’d be in the same boat we’re in now, but with the terminology reversed.  If cause and effect worked in both directions…things could get interesting.  Effectively, there would be no such thing as time.  The past would affect the future, which would then turn around and affect the past, and back again.  The time line would not be a line, but a plane.  Each time a cause and effect bounces back and forth on the time line between future and past, the entire line moves up a notch, drawing a zigzagging line depicting causal relationships as they bounce back and forth.

That’s if cause and effect can ever work in reverse order.  If I hit someone, they might fall backward.  However, I’d be shocked if a person fell backward and I responded by involuntarily throwing a punch.  Therefore, if cause and effect could work in reverse order, normal causal relationships would still always work in the same direction as they are seen to do now.  The difference would be in events that do not usually happen, such as foretelling of the future.  Telling the past is easy, because the causes of the past affect the memories of the present.  To tell the future would require an entirely different set of causal relationships, ones that do not normally happen.  The causes would exist after the effects.

Where does prophecy come from?  It comes from God, does it not?  Therefore, though for us time functions one-dimensionally, for God it must exist in two dimensions at the very least.  All we have is a future and a past.  We see a static time line.  It is what it is.  If the effects ever precede the causes, then we’re dealing with two-dimensional time, or a time line that changes with time.  It’s a difficult concept to grasp, but it is necessarily true.  In order to foretell the future, we need the assistance of one for whom time has one dimension more than we do.

The situation was similar in a previous post, Sid, The Defender, where a circle named Sid lived in a two-dimensional world and could only see objects that existed in that plane.  He was unaware of the three-dimensional person that could see him.  He could not understand the entirety of the finger that crossed through his world.  It looked like a circle to him.  If we wanted to, we could have that circle (the finger cross section) walk through one of his walls, a simple line, by lifting our finger out of his plane on one side of his wall, and placing it back into his world on the other side.  With the extra dimension to our advantage, what would be impossible in his world becomes easy for us.  Then, when we see an angel walk through walls or disappear entirely, or when the beings of a supernatural realm observe us without being seen, we marvel at the impossibility of it.  Yet, if they have the advantage of a fourth dimension, then they have the same advantage over us that we had over Sid.  The impossible becomes possible, but within certain limits.  Angels are not omnipotent.  They strive against their own forces of evil, just as we struggle against ours.

Some people see time as the fourth dimension.  I don’t.  Time has a dimension.  It’s the timeline.  For God, that’s a plane, having two dimensions, maybe more.  I don’t even know what it is for the angels and devils.  I can only say that I suspect they’re in the same boat as us on that one.  Otherwise, Satan would have seen his eventual defeat and decided against rebellion, or chosen to undo his rebellion and make it as though it never happened.  Had it never happened, the underlying root of the evil would still have been there.  He’d still be a devil at heart.  The same would be true for us.  Choosing righteousness because we see our own Hell looming before us is no righteousness at all.  Everything we know about Heaven and Hell, God and anything that might make dirty rotten sinners like us act like angels is a matter of faith.  Were it obvious, could people see the Hell before them like the memory of something that has not happened yet, they might not act out the evil that was in their hearts, but the underlying motivation would still be there.  The fog of perception that keeps the future hazy to us makes all the difference between faith that saves and uncontested fact that makes for boring textbooks.  People avoid running into walls, because they are sure that the walls exist.  They can believe what they want about the afterlife.

In the attic of my mind, I asked God if things would work out all right.  He looked up from his writing of history to say that things would turn out just fine for me.  “Then, I won’t end up dead in this story?” I asked.  “No,” he replied, “You’ll die, but it’ll work out all right for you.”  I’ll die, but I’ll be just fine.  Okay….

Be thankful that you’re blind to the future.  If not, then you’d be reliving your life from the very beginning with all of the memories of things that haven’t happened yet, all of the disasters, all of the burden.  You’d know about the September 11 attacks well in advance.  You’d feel like a jerk if you did nothing about it, and you’d be pulling your hair out if you tried to stop it.  You’d hate your enemies before they deserved it, and you would be faulted for your baseless aversion.  You’d love your future spouse while you were nothing but a stranger to that person.  Spontaneity would be utterly dead.  Everything would be scripted.  Your time of death would be known, and life would be a countdown.  Everything would be set so far in advance that life would lose its meaning.  The reason it would lose its meaning is because you’d be the one responsible for giving it that meaning, rather than God, who currently performs that role.  If you knew all events that would result from any action you made, all of life would be scripted by you, not God.  This person only loves you because you knew what it would take to make them love you.  That job you have is only yours because you knew what strings to pull.  All of life is what it is, because you made it that way, if you could see the future the way that you see the past.

Thank God for your ignorance.  Thank him for the perceptual fog that grants him the right to author the meaning of your life.


Lazarus Died

25 02 2009

I was nearly four years old when I first learned that my birthdays had an annually recurring pattern.  The first three were a serendipity to me.  A month before that annual event, I tried very hard to remember my third birthday, but it seemed like centuries past.  Four years seems like nothing, now, but at that age it was a lifetime.  I also remember being four months old.  I didn’t know at the time how old I was, but I remember events from that time in my life.  I remember not knowing how to roll over on my own.  Back then, I felt as though I had been alive forever.  Four months is nothing, now.  It’s just four changes of the calendar and four new laboratory notebooks.  It seems that as time goes by, the measure of a day shrinks to nothing.  When I pass someone in the hallway at work, I hardly feel the need to say, “Good morning,” as it seems like I had never left.  If I could live a thousand years, a decade would seem like a year.  If I could live forever, all finite time spans would diminish to nothingness in their significance.  Well, that’s all fine and good, but at no point will I have ever lived an eternity.  Even the immortal never really get there.

Which brings me to an interesting point.  For God, who has already existed forever and has forever yet to live, a finite time span is, already, like nothing.  A day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day, for they are both as nothing.  The importance of this is in the value that he places on different things.  A thing which does not last forever is as good as a thing which never existed.  Consider it this way, and very little of what we have here on earth has any value at all to him.  What lasts forever?

Heaven lasts forever.  Hell lasts forever.  The human soul is here to stay.  Anything that we can take with us when we die has lasting value, including relationships and faith.  Everything else has no value.  Understanding this goes miles toward understanding the nature of God, I think.  What God does, therefore, will always be toward furthering things that he values, which will always relate to things that last forever.  Life and death are nothing.  It’s the eternity that follows that must be considered.

(Matthew 11:4 ) Jesus used his miracles as proof of who he was.

(John 9:1) When asked why a man was born blind, Jesus replied that it was so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

From the human perspective, all miracles are for immediate gratification.  A blind man is healed, because blindness is bad.  (John 11) Lazarus was raised from the dead, because death is bad.  The lame were made to walk, because lameness is bad, and so on.  Looking back on it with the advantage of a couple thousand years under our belts, we might assume that not all blind were made to see, so not all blindness is for the purpose of displaying the work of God in people’s lives.  Lazarus…is he still alive?  If Lazarus died, then the miracle of his resurrection has become undone, hasn’t it?  It flies in the face of the assumption that God does all things for an eternal purpose.  The lame that Jesus healed, have they walked at all in the last millennium?  The immediate gratification felt by those who received Christ’s healing has been utterly lost.  All healing is ultimately undone by death.  Lazarus is dead.

But God does nothing for any purpose which is not eternal.

To understand the miracles, one must understand God.  The blind man was made to see, that the glory of God would be displayed in his life.  Why?  That in so doing, people might believe in the one who performed the miracle.  The purpose of blindness is not miraculous healing.  Blindness is just the product of living in a once-dead world.  That particular man, however, was blind for the purpose of the miracle.  All of Christ’s miracles were for a purpose that went beyond the miracle, itself.

(Luke 13:18 , Matthew 17:20)  If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can tell a mountain to move, and it will.  Why?  A seed can grow into a full-sized and flourishing plant.  A little bit of faith is enough for a miracle, because it takes a little bit of faith for a miracle to transform it into a lot of faith.  Faith, destiny and prophecy are the only three ways I know for cause and effect to happen in reverse order.  The miracle does not happen because someone has a lot of faith.  It happens because in so doing it causes faith to grow.  A person without any faith would look upon a miracle as a hoax.  He needs at least a little bit of faith to begin with, or the impact of the miracle never hits him.  It’s the faith that happens after the miracle that causes it to happen in the first place, though.  Destiny, likewise, is an instance of cause and effect in reverse.  It is the purpose that you were destined for that drives your actions today.  If God intends for you to be in Dallas tomorrow, then you will do things today that get you there, whether you realize it or not.  Prophecy is a perfect example of cause and effect in reverse.  They are the events of the future that drive the prophecies of today.  Predictions are only good if they accurately describe events of the future.  Hence, it is the future which drives the present when it comes to prophecy.

(Matthew 9:1-2)  The purpose of a miracle is to drive faith, but the purpose of faith is the forgiveness of sins.  We are saved by faith.  Through salvation comes everlasting life, which means living forever in Heaven with God.

So then, it all comes back to Heaven, Hell, and the human soul.  People often ask how a good and loving God can let so much pain and suffering exist in the world.  The initial response is that this world only has evil for the same reason that Hell has no good.  This is this first death and Hell is the second.  We are one step removed from what God intended for us, but we are fortunate enough not to be fully removed from it.  The second answer is that, unlike Heaven, this world is temporary.  To God, all temporary things are like nothing, because he has already lived forever.  Pulling a loose tooth is torture if done slowly.  The faster you pull it, the happier you’ll be.  For God, this life is practically instantaneous.  The suffering in this life is not the issue.  It’s the suffering or joy of the next life that really matters.

What is pain, anyway?  Pain is the motivation that God placed within our bodies to motivate us to avoid harm.  It’s not the pain that’s bad.  In fact, pain is good, if it works correctly.  It’s the damage to the body, which causes the pain, that is really the issue.  Clearly, we were meant to preserve ourselves from harm, at least for the time being.  Some time, at least, is necessary for the events which lead to eternity.  At the very least, time is necessary for us to find and share the faith that leads to Heaven.  We’re living on a sinking ship.  The more slowly it sinks, the greater our chances of survival.

Death undoes the miracle.  Lazarus died again one day, but death does not undo the purpose of the miracle, which is to increase faith that leads to salvation, which lasts forever.  God does not fail.