Symbol or Prophecy?
Local minister impacted by cover of book on Islamic religion

By Greg Miller
STAR STAFF

   Some people say "you can't judge a book by its cover." The Rev. Jack Lyons, a local minister, isn't so sure.
   Lyons spoke at a Bible conference in New York last year. Carl Ellis, co-author of the book, "The Changing Face of Islam in America," was at the conference lecturing on Islam.
   In the background of the book's cover, the twin towers of the World Trade Center can be seen. Lyons says he "never talked to Brother Ellis about why they used this particular picture. I wondered since the things that have happened, if perhaps this picture was put on because of the attack on the World Trade Center a few years ago. You remember, they put a car bomb in the basement of the thing and tried to bring it down that way.
   "Now whether that's the reason for it, I don't know, or whether he just used it as a background, a symbol of America, which it is. When I flew into New York, we flew right by these towers. Then when I was in Manhattan, I was up close to them.
   "In a sense, it's prophetic to me. I think that God in His providence brought the picture together as it is."
   Lyons preached a recent sermon, "The Battle Rages On," at Hansonville Baptist Church, the church he pastors in Hansonville, Va. "This really is not anything new," he said. "The struggle that we're involved in as humans on this earth has been going on since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. We're caught up in the middle of it, and it is a struggle of the true and living God. It's a struggle against Satan and the forces of evil that would destroy God and overthrow God and overthrow all that's good and righteous if he could. This battle has been going on for probably 6,000 years or more.
   "It's really not anything new in that sense. We're just beginning to realize maybe a little bit more than we have since we've been so isolated in our country and have been sheltered basically since the Civil War from problems here in our own land. We've probably just grown a little lax with it and thought it could never happen here. We are caught up in the battle of right and wrong and good and evil."
   Although Lyons agrees with Dr. Jerry Falwell, the nationally known minister who said that the attack was judgment from God, he doesn't believe Falwell went far enough in his comments, and he doesn't believe Falwell should have apologized.
   "I agree with Jerry Falwell about what he said, and I think he should have gone on further," Lyons stated. "I don't think he should have apologized for what he said. I think it is a part of an act of God's judgment on this country because of our sin, and not just the groups that Falwell mentioned, but all of our sin, collectively as a nation."
   Lyons observed that in the Old Testament, "God used very godless nations to afflict and correct His children, the children of Israel. I certainly think that's come upon us because of our sin and our departure from God. And I don't view America as a Christian nation. It really never has been and is not today. I think that among the nations of the earth that America has been one of the greatest and finest nations on the earth because of the godly people that live here."
   With the godly leadership of President Bush, and with the longsuffering grace of God, Lyons believes there is still hope for America. "I think what we need to do is turn back to God," he said. "I think we as Christian people have been playing with religion too much rather than being sincere about it as we ought to be.
   "Yes, there's hope for America, and there's hope for the world in God and in God's grace. God in His sovereignty can turn the nation around, and His blessings can be upon us. I think all of us need to repent of our sins and look to the Lord and trust the Lord and pray for forgiveness of ourselves and our nation."
   Lyons believes "we're in a tremendous struggle. We hear politicians talk about a lot of different things. They use words that a lot of times don't mean anything, but I really think this is a struggle between good and evil. It will certainly be a protracted thing, and I don't know that it will be a war that we will ever win. America must be vigilant and stay on their guard, I think, from now own.
   "I think that all Americans have to be vigilant, and watchful and observant of things that go on around them," he said. "I know when I made the flight to New York last summer, I thought about how easy it would be to pull a terrorist act on the plane. I got on with my cell phone, and all kinds of stuff in the carry-on baggage, and went through the inspection.
   "We're just so vulnerable because of our openness as a society. So Americans need to be vigilant, and then those who are saved by the grace of God need to be much in prayer that God would have mercy on our nation and spare us from some of this horror that's gone on around us.
   "Really, I think it's a shame that we were caught the way we were with these airliners. I think it would be very easy to fix the cockpit to where it would be hard to get in. And I think it would have been very easy to have had armed guards on there to protect the planes.
   "I think it's shameful that they took over these planes with small knives and box openers. We're going to have to realize that when you're dealing with the school-yard bully, you've got to do something to get him off of you. Whatever it takes to do it, that's what America's got to do."
   President Bush's military strategy is definitely called for, according to Lyons. "I think we need military action," he said. "When the knowledge is there as to where they're at, we need to use military action to take them out. Just like when you're in school and you have some boy that's bullying you, you have to do whatever you have to do to get him off of you. If it takes a rock, a stick or whatever, get him off."
   Lyons believes "the potential is there" for America to face future terrorist attacks. "I really don't think we know yet how deep these (terrorist) cells have gone here in America and how many people are out there. We have so many places in America, because of our freedom, that are vulnerable to attack. They could cause great catastrophe. These militants are of such a nature and such a mind that if they get an opportunity they'll carry it out."
   A national ID card has been proposed as a means of increasing national security. Lyons says he is not bothered by the prospect of such a card, noting that through the use of Social Security numbers much privacy already has been lost.
   "For many years, we've deceived ourselves about the measure of freedom that we really have in this nation," he said. "I personally would be in favor of an ID card. I know that it could be turned against us. On the other hand, it might be useful to provide more protection to the American people."
   President Bush has said that the War on Terrorism is not a war on the Islamic religion or the Muslim people. "I agree with him a hundred percent, it is not," Lyons said. "There are Islamic people who are faithful in their religion that don't believe in doing the things that have been done in America and around the world. So he's right in that regard. But it is a war with a religious group of people who are fanatics that are doing these terrible things all over the world."
   As far as the future is concerned, Lyons believes that when the prophecies such as the so-called "Mark of the Beast" from the book of Revelation are fulfilled, the Church will be in heaven. "I think from a lot of the prophecy in the book of Revelation that the Church will probably be raptured out and will not go through a lot of that," he commented.
   Concerning the preaching of prophecy today, Lyons believes "a lot of the preachers preach a lot more than they really know about the Word of God, and a lot more than the Word of God clearly reveals. We say, 'Well, God wouldn't let us go through that.' The thing is, I know we're going to be delivered from a portion of it. But when you look back at World War II and before World II, and the slaughter of Christian people ... They went through death.
   "Persecution and trials can't get much more than death. That's about all they can do to you on this earth. We may go through more of a tribulation than we think before we get out of here. But, really that's all up to God and His sovereignty as to how much we will or will not have to suffer."
   Lyons noted that in some countries of the world, Christians are being martyred. "There are people by the thousands each year that are giving their life for their faith in Christ," he said.
   Lyons is a former pastor of Victory Baptist Church, Roan Mountain. "I started that church about 40 years ago," he said.