Thursday, November 16, 2006

Use The Third Lens

I’ll admit it: I follow the news with an intensity—and I’ve been doing it for years.  Whether it’s my necessity of reading a daily newspaper (and I’ve been known to go to great lengths to find one) or following various news websites throughout my day or watching the national news as I walk on my treadmill, I keep track of the world events.  To show you my long-term interest in the news events, I recall standing in the news room at Indiana University between my college classes.  The Associated Press wire machine spit out news print constantly with the latest news (before the days of the Internet). I was reading those wires when Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned.

EpicenterSince his first novel, The Last Jihad, I’ve been an enthused supporter of the writings of Joel C. Rosenberg. If you haven’t read this book, go and find one—with the understanding that it came out before the U.S. invaded Iraq. I’ve read Joel’s other three novels which followed this first one. Each one were pageturners and well-done.  I was a bit amused to see in the back of Joel’s latest book, Epicenter, some reviews for his previous works including The Ezekiel Option. While it doesn’t include my name, I recognized my writing under a review labeled “FaithfulReader.com”: “I was hooked on this book from the first two sentences…The Ezekiel Option stands alone for a tension-filled reading experience. The characters are well-drawn and the dialogue is crisp in this contemporary novel…The tension for the reader grows with each page until you reach a point of no return—where you have to complete the book in that sitting, even if you stay up until the wee hours of the morning.”

With this background, you can imagine my excitement to read Joel’s first nonfiction book, Epicenter, Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future. A respected journalist and Christian, I knew this book would contain solid insight into the political situation of world events.  I read it on the plane back from New York City and it was excellent for my almost five hour flight.  Because Rosenberg has traveled many times to the Middle East and interviewed political leaders, his information contains unusual insight and he documents his information in detail with over 20 pages of end notes.

Today I wanted to point out two small sections of this book. I highly recommend you get the entire book and learn from the insights. In Chapter Eight: Future Headline Kremlin Joins “Axis of Evil,” Forms Military Alliance with Iran, Rosenberg tells about a speech Vice President Dick Cheney delivered on May 4, 2006 which infuriated the Kremlin. “Russia’s leaders have a choice to make, Cheney explained. They can choose the path of freedom and democracy or the path of tyranny and aggression. He noted that the future of peace and security in the twenty-first century will be profoundly affected by the decisions Moscow makes in the coming years, and he insisted that Western leaders are optimistic. “None of us believes that Russia is fated to become an enemy,” he said.  It was a thoughtful, well-reasoned, and much needed speech, and I was glad the White House chose to send such a strong message to President Putin and his top advisors. But that last line troubled me, for when one looks at Russia through not only the political and economic lenses but also through the third lens of Scripture, one sees that Russia is, in fact, designed to become an enemy of the East, and particularly of Israel, in part because of its alliance with Iran.” (p. 103–104)  Then Rosenberg explains his reasons using Ezekiel 38. It’s fascinating to use this third lens of Scripture in the consideration of world events.

Finally here’s a story which is not told in the traditional news media but is included in Epicenter. Rosenberg says, “Even today, an exciting and dramatic spiritual revolution that is being completely missed by the mainstream media is under way throughout the Islamic world. The big (untold) story to the Middle East is that more Muslims are turning to Christ today than any other time in human history, and much of it has happened since 9/11…”One night in a Middle Eastern country I cannot name, I had dinner with an Iraqi pastor from Baghdad. I asked him to paint me a picture of what he was seeing God do in his country. He graciously agreed. “You know, Joel, the best way to think about Iraq right now is to think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,” he said, referring to the famous story found in Daniel 3. “Remember, they were captives in Babylon, and they refused to bow down and worship the idol that King Nebuchadnezzar had built. So the king ordered that the fiery furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual, and then he threw the men in there. But when the king looked into the furnace, he was stunned. He asked his officials, ‘Didn’t I throw three men in there?’ and they said, ‘Certainly, O king.’ And he said, ‘But look! I see four men walking around in there, without chains on their hands, and without being harmed—and the fourth is like a son of the gods!”

“This is what we are facing today. When you look at the news, you see Iraq on fire—seven times hotter than before—and that’s true. Things are very difficult. There is much violence and bloodshed. But that is only part of the story. That was the view from the outside. On the inside, it looked much different for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Yes, they were inside the flames. But they were also free, and they were walking with Jesus. That’s our situation today. For the first time in our lives, we are free, and Jesus is walking with us, guiding us, helping us to be a blessing to our fellow Iraquis who need his love and his salvation so desperately. We couldn’t be more excited about the miracles God is doing here. We just ask the church outside to keep praying that we are brave enough and worthy enough to bear the name of Jesus.” (p. 215–216)

This taste of Epicenter is just that—a small portion.  As you can see, I am someone who follows the news yet I’m also trying to use the third lens of Scripture. This book contains fresh insight.

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