Jesus Appearing to Muslims in their Dreams (Jonathan Storment)

Jesus Appearing to Muslims in their Dreams (Jonathan Storment) May 13, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 5.04.27 PMChristians are so hard to tolerate, I don’t know how Jesus does it. -Bono

Sometimes I am embarrassed to say that I am a Christian.  I am not embarrassed of Jesus, I am embarrassed by his representatives.  I know this is a cliché, but there is a reason that it has been said so much, so often, and by so many.  It is hard to listen to all the stuff that is done and said in the name of Jesus and not want to distance yourself from all the crazies.  But these are still my people.  Embarrassing as it is, this still is the body of Christ.

But I am not the only one who is embarrassed by us.  Dorothy Sayers once said that God has gone through three humiliations:  The Manger, The Cross, and the Church.  The God who made the world needs to have His diapers changed, then He is stripped naked and killed publically, and then (the one we are more familiar with) people try to burn a Qu’ran, or go on witch hunts, or become political pundits in his name.

It is embarrassing.

So this is the week where Christians all around the world celebrate the Ascension of Jesus.  That Jesus is Lord of the Universe and reconciling all things back to God.  But for most of us, the Ascension doesn’t mean much, but Christian theology has long said that it is the source of great hope, and common sense tells us it is also partly to blame for our embarrassment.

Philip Yancey says that the biggest challenge facing his faith is not the Resurrection of Jesus, it is the Ascension of Jesus.  Because in the words of Yancey:

The ascension turned loose that company of motley pilgrims collectively known as the church.  If Jesus had not ascended, had stayed behind in some capacity as Super-pope, there would be no need for a book like this one.  Grace would be overflowing, not vanishing.  Christians would not have to repent for tragic mistakes such as the Crusades and the Inquisition and anti-Jewish pogroms, for Jesus could have stopped such misguided endeavors in their tracks.  When moral questions arose, such as slavery, end-of-life issues, or gay rights, the church could appeal directly to Jesus for a ruling that would settle the matter once and for all.  Instead, as if aping the disciples, all too often we stare slack-jawed at the sky or muddle along in confusion. 

Jesus doesn’t send out a perfect Church.  It gives me comfort to know that the ascended Jesus sends out a Church that is incomplete, unfinished, and in progress.

In his latest book, John Ortberg points out that during the ministry of Jesus, He chose 12 disciples, symbolic of the tribes of Israel, the restoration of God’s plan for His people.  But after Judas, they are down to 11 disciples.  And Jesus sends them out anyway.  I like the way New Testament scholar Dale Bruner says it,

The number ‘eleven’ limps; it is not perfect like twelve…The church that Jesus sends into the world is ‘elevenish,’ imperfect, fallible.

The Church we have inherited is an 11ish, awkward crew of all the wrong kinds of people.  But there is good news in all of this too, because Jesus doesn’t send a church out alone.

This past summer I was in Jordan right when the Western world was learning about ISIS.  I was in the Middle East when the news broke that this new militant group had invaded Bagdad and was beheading Westerners for sport.  A few months ago, I wrote that a Christian response to ISIS is to pray for them and love our enemies.  I would like to unpack that a bit more.

After graduating from college, my wife and I were on a mission team that planned on moving out of the Bible Belt and to a predominately Muslim area of the world.  Leslie grew up with a Muslim step-dad and we had spent quite a bit of time in regions that were largely populated with Muslim believers.  But the mission team that we were a part of wound up dissolving, and I ended up preaching in Texas at two different, very good churches, with a nice salary and benefits package.

And as I was in Jordan, spending time again with people who are Muslim, I began to feel guilty for the direction my life had taken over the past decade and sense a real burden for people who were there and the churches that didn’t get planted because I never went.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a blog written for cathartic reasons.  I am not trying to guilt trip anyone or just ease my own guilt.  I am writing this because what is often our greatest embarrassment can also be a source of great comfort and great hope.

I am often embarrassed by other Christians, and I am sure I embarrass other Christians too.  I often find myself wishing that certain Jesus followers wouldn’t have a microphone or platform to say some of the things that we so glibly say on God’s behalf.  But there is a flip side to all this.  The God of Jesus may have the worst P.R. in the universe, but God is still at work in all of it.

So while I was in Jordan I was touring the Holy Lands with a group of Christians who were led by my friend Dr. Evertt Huffard.  Evertt is an archeologist and missionary in Palestine.  While we were talking about the unrest in the area, and how I feel guilty for our mission team never leaving the States, and how I have this cushy job in the Bible Belt, Evertt gently pointed out that a majority of the Muslims who are converting to Christianity in Muslim countries are not doing it because of missionaries.  The majority of conversions in areas like this are happening because Jesus is coming to Muslim men and women in dreams.

Jesus is coming to them in their dreams.

I don’t know what is going to happen in the future.  I don’t know how far ISIS is going to get on their path of world domination and terrorism, but I do know this.  Jesus isn’t pacing the throne of Heaven.  He is ascended and bending all things back toward His purposes.

Just in case I’m ever tempted to believe my own hype, or allow myself to feel the weight of the world, or believe the lie that the Kingdom of God depends on me, or some ministry initiative. Just in case I’m ever tempted to disavow these embarrassing Christians or my church I must remember that Jesus has not just risen, He has ascended.

Or my church, I must remember that Jesus is not just risen, He has ascended.

Jesus is LORD, and he is using the embarrassing motley crew that is his Church.

Jonathan is the co-author of the recently released book Bringing Heaven to Earth

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