Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lion of Babylon: Davis Bunn

Davis Bunn has shown me how adventure, mystery, and God can go hand in hand without getting sappy.  Let's be honest-nothing will ruin a great story more than sappy Americanized Jesus getting stuffed down your throat and having the story wrapped up in a nice little bow.  That's just not real life, people!  Davis has yet to do this, and I doubt he will.  He writes his characters so that their relationship with God directs their steps, but he doesn't make them predictable either.  Such a treat to have mystery stories without cuss words and sex.

In the past year or so, I've read every one of Bunn's books that I can find, so probably close to 20 at the moment.  Lion of Babylon is hands down my favorite at this point. 

Marc Royce is a former State Department employee who is sent to Baghdad to find his missing best friend.  It looks like Alex has run off with two American girls and an Iraqi young man, but of course, nothing is ever as it seems.  Iran is involved, and this part of the story is probably more realistic than our government wants to admit.  Some pretty awesome James Bond type scenes unfold as the disappearance is resolved, meaning I had an insanely difficult time putting down this book to go to sleep.

I don't want to give away too many plot details, but I have to share the parts that left me pondering for days.  Marc works with a Christian Iraqi lawyer named Sameh in the book.  Sameh's family has been Christians before Islam existed.  He sheds a lot of light on the fact that Iraqis are becoming Jesus followers in droves.  This had me hopping up and down because I have friends talking about Isa (Jesus' name in the Qu'ran) in Iraq.  They've gone to serve their Father there, and the stories they report are fantastic.  Being a Christian can get you killed in the Middle East, but being a follower of Jesus is something so powerful that the governments of both Iraq and Iran are feeling powerless to stop it.  We only hear the scary stories in the news, but these stories in Lion of Babylon are backed by people on the ground.   It's beautiful.

See, many people in the Middle East have a sour taste for the word 'Christian'.  It was Christians that pillaged, raped, murdered, and destroyed their cities in the name of God during the Crusades and attacks on the Ottoman Empire in the name of colonization for hundreds of years.  It was Christians who corrupted their culture.  But, Jesus followers, now, they are making waves.  Jesus followers are befriending Arabs and showing people that actions of peace speak louder than words.  Jesus followers are showing Muslims that they speak truth because they follow through with promises.  When that is done, they are willing to listen to the truth of Jesus.  These Jesus followers are living like Jesus and making a difference in ways we can't fathom without seeing it for ourselves. They spur me on to be conscious of my actions at all times. If only these stories were on the news!

The Qur'an speaks the names of Jesus (Isa) five times more than it does Mohammad.  Their are 25 verses that call Jesus by name, and many of those verses connect Him as being Mary'sSson.  The story of Jesus' virgin birth is told in the Qur'an.  In Sura 2:136, the Qu'ran says that Muslims must believe all that God spoke in the Old Testament and the Injeel (Arabic for New Testament).  In the Qu'ran, Jesus is referred to as 'The Righteous One', 'The Pure One', 'The One Without Sin', 'The Word of Truth', ' God's Witness', 'The Bringer of Good New', The Intercessor, 'The Straight Path', and The Word of God'.  When Jesus followers sit down with Muslims and clearly answer their questions about the New Testament, God is at work.  The influence of a Jesus follower, someone who aims to reflect Christ in all things, is incredibly powerful to change hearts.  In the Middle East, Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Christians, and Jews are meeting together in secret to worship Jesus.  Even what Satan meant for evil (other religions), God has redeemed for His purposes. 

Sameh shares with Marc a Christian greeting for the morning that has been used by Muslims for hundreds of years.  It's beautiful in the Arabic, and also in English: Ya sabbah, ya aleem.  Salutations to the Giver of this new day, to the Giver of this life.  Yes, Lord, my greetings to You each new day as I try to follow You and not this world.  Use me to make a difference. 

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