Friday, September 2, 2005

Of irony and woven carpets

As I knelt last night to pray while listening to musical Sufi prayers* (Sufi is a mystical branch of Islam; you may be familiar with the dancing trance-prayers of the whirling dervishes), I felt burdened by two things: (1) the eerie supernatural aura created by these prayers, giving a very apparent (but not true) sense of the divine presence; (2) the incredible power wielded against the kingdom of God through Islam in the country to which I'll be moving in one week.

The music is stunningly beautiful, but I had to shut it off and remind myself that Jesus Christ is the road, the reality, and the life. He is preeminent, and he alone is God. It was discomforting to realize how even I, a Christian, felt drawn by the music to some false ideal. There are so many things in this world that offer cheap and enticing imitations of the true God but are only husks and ashes. The divine is not found in a trance, in incense, or in beautiful icons; instead it wore sandals and ate dates and was left to hang on a tree on a barren hillside in view of the supposed entrance to Hades, the netherworld. Our flesh will always flee from this.

I recall the haunting eeriness of the first time I heard the confession and call to prayer: "Allah is most great. There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet." I got to walk among the "city of a thousand mosques" and stand next to tombs of men who lived and died in opposition to the deity of Jesus Christ. It made me nauseous with that feeling you get when you're all alone in the house and you think someone is watching you. Satan is real, my friends.

Yet I find a comfort in God's omnipresence and complete sovereignty, even in the Near East. As the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper once said, "In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, 'That is mine!'" Even in the face of a history of God-belittling lies promoted through men named Kemal, Suleyman, and Beyazit, God is at work to redeem and protect his people for the sake of his great name. Take, for example, Mao Ze Dong. He earnestly believed that through communism, man had the power to create a true utopia on earth, free of the aid or necessity of any presumed deity. Patrick Johnstone of Operation World once remarked, "Mao Ze Dong was utterly opposed to all religions, and built a cult around his own personality. What an unlikely man to become the person who, by his actions, has possibly contributed to more people coming into the kingdom [of God] than any other person in all of history!"

Believe it or not, indirectly, without the spread of Islam into northern Africa, we would not have had the Reformation. (For the reason why, e-mail me at and I can send you a sermon explaining it.) God, I thank you and am encouraged that even in the Near East, you have set up history, religion, geography, and culture exactly so that men and women can seek you and reach out and find you, though you are not far from anyone (Acts 17.26-27).

*To download some mind-blowing Sufi electronica, check out Mercan Dede (pronounced mair-jon day-day) at Click on "media" and then "music."

1 comment:

FreeThinker said...

Satan is Real?