From the editor: September 26, 2014
Who Is Isa?
Last week I wrote about missions from Albania. Most of the Muslims in former Communist Albania are secularized and only nominally Muslim. So, too, do many Albanians culturally identify as Orthodox or Catholic from their family background, but do not practice their faith.
While it will take some time to reflect on my trip to Albania, one thing stands out after spending 10 days here: the Muslims who have converted to Christ. Our group visited an evangelical church in Tirana where we heard a number of testimonies. The church's pastor is a former Muslim. Another young convert from Islam who spoke is now translating the church fathers into Albanian.
A couple of days earlier, I visited an Orthodox family that had converted from Islam. During the conference I attended, several individuals cited numerous instances in the Middle East of Muslims converting to Christ after experiencing visions or dreams. One family appeared at the door of a church saying that Jesus appeared to them and had instructed them to be baptized. They were baptized.
Such things are happening all the time. There are books and stories about this on the web; here is just one. When a Muslim says Jesus appeared to him in a dream and told him to get baptized, what can one say? (He's not getting much of a hearing from the New York Times.)
Modern Westerners have relegated the operation of dreams to either the mechanics of neuroscience or the fuzzy operations of psychology, Freudian or otherwise. In other words, dreams have no supernatural importance.
But the lives of the saints in and out of Scripture attest to the role of dreams—Joseph's flight to Egypt with Mary and Jesus; Polycarp's burning pillow—and of vision—Paul's Damascus Road conversion and Peter's bestiary in linen, for example. With dreams, caution is always in order (as the lives of the saints also testify), just as thoughts and imagination are tricky and malleable faculties to be carefully tested. But dreams are used of God. To reach Muslims.
The youngest of Job's comforters, Elihu, declares that "God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it."
"In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens the ears of men." (34:14-16)
So consider these things when you hear about the Middle East. Everyone has heard of ISIS. And we've heard proposals for relocating Christians from the Middle East. The Christians there do not all want to leave; they remain a Christian witness. A monumental spiritual struggle is taking place: Christians are martyred while converts are also being won to Christ. Haven't we read of such things before—in ancient Rome, Asia Minor, Persia, in tales of the ancient martyrs and early church? The Lord walks among the candlesticks of the churches, drawing men to himself.
Spiritual forces are at work this very day, and souls are at stake, much more so than even political boundaries and maps. This should be foremost in our minds and on our hearts. So pray every day for our suffering brothers and sisters; pray for their witness; and pray for the conversion of their neighbors. The harvest is plentiful, the laborers are few. Pray the Lord of the Harvest. . . . He is not absent.
*Isa is Arabic for Jesus.
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
—James M. Kushiner