Review of Once an Arafat Man: The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life by Tass Saada with Dean Merrill


Recommended: A thorough autobiography of the author’s former Muslim perspective and re-birth through Jesus Christ.

Saada’s story stretches from silly childhood episodes, to his involvement as a sniper and personal chauffeur to his long time hero Yasser Arafat, and to the supernatural way God pursued him in the midst of it all.  Written in casual story-telling language, it’s easy to follow Saada’s personal transgression from hating the Jews and fearing Allah to recognizing Jesus as God and finding love and grace (even for the Jews).  As his faith progresses, he is amazed to find Arabs prominently placed in the Bible–not with the same mission, inheritance, and responsibility as the Jews, but with equal love from God (who loves all nations), and with their own unique blessings and promises.

Now the founder of Christian humanitarian organization Hope for Ishmael, Saada has a strong passion for Arab-Jewish reconciliation in the Middle East as each people group discovers Jesus as God and understands their individual role in His kingdom.  The final chapters express amazing optimism that peace is fully achievable as every person recognizes and follows Jesus.

This view of peace and reconciliation, while understandable in the context of Saada’s message, wrongfully exaggerates the message of the Bible and leaves out a great deal of God’s story.  I don’t see this as making his personal testimony and insight less valuable, but I’d like to counterbalance his argument by reminding readers that while followers of Jesus are called to live peacefully whenever possible, we should not expect peace or reconciliation contrary to Biblical prophecies or to allegiance to our Lord.  The Bible is very explicit that at some point all nations will be against Israel (yet to be fulfilled in fullness) and also that a world-wide religious, economic and political system is coming which will superficially be about peace and tolerance, then lead into the violent regime of the Antichrist.  So while I appreciate Saada’s idealism that the Middle East can be fully reconciled, we also have to remember that Jesus came to bring a division (Luke 12:49-51), and that many will choose to reject Jesus and the peace He brings.  Christians should never attempt to fabricate peace outside of Jesus or without Him, so we should be prudent that Jesus always remain the central focus of evangelism.

I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of the Tyndale Blog Network.


The Positive Side of Illness, Fatigue, and Physical Pain


I wrote this over a month ago in the midst of a physically trying moment and didn’t have the energy to edit it into a post.  I’m now 21 weeks pregnant, and have been feeling much better: nausea only in the evenings, less fatigue, and the comfort of feeling our little one move and remembering why I’m doing this.

This is what I wrote ten weeks ago:

I’ve pretty much been sick all eleven weeks of my pregnancy, minus a few great days here and there.  I’ve had the flu; I’ve had a long-lasting cough that threatened premature contractions; and the normal pregnancy symptoms (nausea, headaches, fatigue) have been enough to deal with on their own.

But while my tolerances have been stretched, this has also been an excellent opportunity for me to see my spiritual weaknesses and to fully depend on the Lord.

There is nothing like having the areas we most depend on ripped out from under us.  I’ve always been physically pretty healthy, and didn’t realize how much I’d pulled comfort and strength from my place of good health.  Having almost constant pain lately has been quite humbling.  I’ve also become aware of other areas in my spirit that need spiritual transformation, which likely would have gone unnoticed without this ‘forced fasting’.

For the first time, I think I’m understanding the spiritual directive to have joy within suffering–to count it my blessing when I experience trials (James 1:2-4, 2 Cor 12:7-10, Phil 4:11).  I’m not sure there’s a way to articulate this concept, but it is certainly a blessing to experience such a joy.  I have especially have fond memories of spending hours vomiting with intermittent praises to the Lord, and though I also don’t want that pain again anytime soon, it’s really quite amazing that I’d even think in such a way.

To my friends who are also facing physical trials: I want to encourage you not to pray immediately for healing or a ‘fixed’ circumstance, but to first press into the raw love of the Lord.  I have frequently been blessed with sudden immediate healing from the Lord upon praying–there is definitely a place for this and it can increase our faith in a miracle working God.  But let the Spirit lead you to pray before you assume you know what’s best.  I have occasionally been lead to pray for other things: for endurance and strength to face the trial, for the physical manifestation of the Lord’s love and peace, for wisdom and revelation of who He is, for heart, soul and spirit to be transformed into His nature, for the ability to rest in Him despite the circumstance, and so forth.  Sometimes the answers to heart issues are much more rewarding than the healing of the physical issues.

I pray we would not miss out on any of the Lord’s gifts, even when they come in painful packages.  There is a time and a season for everything under heaven (Eccl 3).