Inspire or Expire

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Did you know that to INSPIRE means to BREATHE? My husband is trained as a respiratory therapist and when he was in school, he was always talking about inspiration. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that inspiration is to breathe in and expiration is to breathe out, or to die.

I was getting a presentation ready for the State of Oklahoma on Employee Engagement and what really gets people plugged into an organization’s vision, mission and culture. Being able to INSPIRE others was a theme that emerged from all the research. Inspiring means to motivate others to go out of their comfort zone. It means to stimulate or get people charged up – not just about coming to work day in and day out, but to truly get them to see how their daily work can have a lasting impact on the organization and their community.

Encouraging others is a constant theme for me as I mentor other women in business (see CCBWOKC on Facebook). To be able to breathe life can be daunting… especially on those days that I might be struggling to even get ready in the morning. So how do you do this? How do you inspire others to be something different?

For me, the answer comes through the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew word for the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God is “RUACH.” Ruach means wind or breath. It’s an onomatopoeia which means that the word is the same as the sound it makes. This is the same Ruach God breathes into Adam in Genesis 2:7 (KJV)~ And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. The breath of life is the same as the inspiration we should pray for today. God is the same  yesterday, today and tomorrow. He doesn’t change. The same breath he breathed into Adam is the same inspiration you need today.

The way to help others is to share words that bring life to others. As Christians, our speech should always be full of grace, seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). By the way, this is the verse I use for the header of my blog! For me, it means that if my words are not glorifying to God and wrapped in love, I should not be speaking them. This is not easy to do!  However, if you become mindful of what you are getting ready to say to someone and think about it for just a second or two, you can quickly evaluate to see if it is tearing down or building up.

Inspiration is to breathe into someone, to encourage, build up and motivate. Let’s focus on doing these things instead of discouraging, tearing down, and hurting. Inspire others so you can be a light in the darkness!

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Saudi Arabia: Welcome to the 21st Century!

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Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree yesterday, allowing women to finally be able to drive. My mother worked as an OB/GYN in Saudi Arabia in the 1970’s. She was a practicing physician who had to have a mahram (a male chaperone from immediate family or husband) and could not drive to work. This made it very difficult for my father and my mother, since he would have to travel for his work. She tells me stories of how she would be denied transportation by taxi drivers who feared being seen with a woman who was not related to them.

One story stands out in my mind. She had an emergency call from the hospital and they needed her to come to attend one of her patients immediately. My father was traveling to another city and was not present. She called another female friend to come with her so she would not go alone. The taxi driver would not even allow them to explain themselves. He drove away in a hurry. She then called the hospital and told them they would need to send transportation for her. They refused. No one wanted to break the law that would land them immediately into jail for several violations (picking up an unrelated woman, driving her without her mahram, not reporting this to the authorities, etc).

Women in the United States go blissfully about their business daily. We take for granted many civil liberties that are offered to us without a second thought to other women who have to live by antiquated laws. I wrote another blog on women’s identity in Islam here Women have never been able to drive in the country because it was ruled by Muslim clerics that the additional freedom would impede restrictions on them (and yes, one cleric incorrectly hypothesized that driving affects women’s ovaries and pelvis).

While we can celebrate the fact that Saudi Arabia has finally made it to the 21st century, there are many other limitations placed on women. Driving is just the first (small) step. There are strict guardianship laws that are dictated by Islamic Law. Women there still need men’s permission to have medical procedures done and even see a physician! Where is the outrage at that?

Even in the United Kingdom, there are Muslim clerics who call for restrictions on women. There is an article here by the UK Telegraph that shares how a ruling went out that forbids British Muslim women to go more than 48 miles radius without a male family chaperone. All of this reminds me to be thankful of the freedoms we have here in America. We have freedom to drive, to seek medical attention, to go to school and to work. We have freedom to practice religion and to worship.

May we THANK men and women who have fought for our nation and may we THANK GOD for allowing us to live here!

~But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!

2 Corinthians 3:16-17

Paid in FULL

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Front Desk at Snow King Resort -Jackson Hole Wyoming

My husband & I just got back from a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This was a business trip for him, including days spent in a conference room with speakers on the topic of healthcare. His generous boss invited the spouses to come along and enjoy the hotel, amenities and excursions. So basically, while he worked, I got to play! 🙂

It is a different experience to travel for work. The expenses are usually taken care of by the company, but still there is that thought in the back of the mind that doesn’t quite believe it to be true. We always have that awkward moment at the end — do we leave the hotel keys in the room as we’ve been told over a hundred times, or should we go ahead and bring them down the front desk and checkout in person to make sure there aren’t any surprises? My husband, being the man who wants to make sure he is doing the right and responsible thing, always chooses the latter option.

So, yesterday morning at the dark hour of 4:45 am, we made our way to the front desk and turned in our keys. As the man was keying in our information, my husband asked for a receipt. The guy looked up and said “I can’t give you a receipt. The payment information goes to the Master. Your bill is paid in full.”

Immediately I thought of Christ.

His payment of sacrifice on the cross was given on our behalf to the Master. Our bill is paid in full. No receipt needed… only thankfulness on our part for what Christ has done for us in giving us eternal life through his death. This is the business of heaven – redemption and salvation.

What a gift of GRACE:

God’s

Riches

At

Christ’s

Expense

Amen.

Eid al Adha TODAY!

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image from RRB Result

Muslims all over the world look to Saudi Arabia to determine the shape of the moon to indicate the start of Eid festival. The Saudi High Judicial Council (HJC) announced August 22 that the new moon will be in a crescent, (they then calculate the date of Eid to be 10 days after) indicating the festival of Eid. The Islamic religious calendar is based upon a Lunar calendar and there is significance in the crescent moon. This is why you see the crescent moon for many of the Islamic nations’ flags and on top of mosques.

Eid al Adha (or Eid ul Adha – same thing) is translated as the “Greater Eid” or “Bakr Eid.” It is the Festival of the Sacrifice. I wrote about the rituals last year in this blog titled “Eid al Adha, 9/11, & God’s Sacrifice on Mount Moriah.” Every year, millions of Muslims sacrifice a goat or a lamb to commemorate Abraham’s sacrifice of his son. Muslims believe it was Ishmael who was offered on the altar, while the Jewish and Christian Scriptures state it was Isaac. Nevertheless, Abraham’s obedience to God is the commemoration on this day.

According to Hanifah (stricter rules of Islam), the offering for every Muslim is mandatory. According to other Hadiths (traditions), however, it is called “Sunnah” or a good thing to do. Either way, the Hadith says:

“Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is reported to have said :
‘Whoever can afford to offer a sacrifice but does not do so, let him not approach our place for prayer.’ (Reported by Ahmad and Ibn Maajah; classed as saheeh by al-Haakim from the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah.  ‘All those people who have the nisab (payable amount) of zakah should offer a sacrifice. The time for offering a sacrifice begins after the `Eid Al-Adha prayer.’ According to a Hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “Whosoever offered a sacrifice before the `Eid prayer, he or she just slaughtered an animal for meat, but whosoever made sacrifice after the `Eid Al-Adha prayer, he or she has offered a sacrifice.” (Al-Bukhari, Sahih, Hadith no. 902).”

So if you are called to sacrifice a goat or a lamb, how do you fulfill this as a Muslim? In this technologically advanced world, this has become much easier!  There are advertisements that allow a Muslim to pay for a lamb, a goat or even a cow (can share this sacrifice with up to 7 people) all around the world. Here’s an example of an ad:

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EXAMPLE of an ad for “Qurbani” or Sacrifice for sale

The problem with this is that the sacrifice needs to fulfill certain age requirements (more than 6 months old, but less than five years old, have none of the four defects mentioned by Muhammad, etc.). So how would you know that your sacrifice being chosen thousands of miles away meets the requirements? The answer is: You don’t.

When the Jewish people would offer sacrifice to the Lord, they had the understanding that the sacrifice was for atonement of sins – they were sinful and had to pay the penalty for sin. God allowed them to have a system of sacrifice that was offered on their behalf. Only one obscure Muslim Hadith mentions that you need to be present as you slaughter your sacrifice so that “Allah may forgive you as the first drop of blood comes out.” It is not certain what is being forgiven here – your latest sin, killing the animal or all your sins. The way most of my family looked at this was that it was simply one of the checklists that you need to do as a Muslim.

When I was a Muslim, I did not completely understand why we sacrificed a lamb (see post to explain that ritual) other than remembering Abraham’s obedience. I didn’t know what that lamb’s blood would do for me and what it meant for me, other than being obedient to Allah. There was no connection for me as to atonement or someone else taking on my sins. As far as I knew, I ALONE was responsible for doing good deeds to tip my scales towards the good on Judgment Day. It wasn’t until I met Christ Jesus and understood him shedding His blood willingly on the cross for my sins. I understood that day that only ONE is sinless (the Quran says also that only Jesus – Isa Ibn Maryam was sinless!). In the Bible, 1 Peter 1:18-20 says:

18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was known before the foundation of the world, but was revealed in the last times for your sake.…

As Muslims celebrate today and this weekend with parties and festivals, I want to ask Believers to pray for them to know the TRUE Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the sinless and spotless lamb of God. May every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Amen.

ISIS & the Cultural Muslim

ISIS & the Cultural Muslim

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I know Muslim homes around the world were cringing yesterday when a Muslim man’s name was announced for the terrorist attacks in Spain. My family gets really agitated and worked up each time there is an attack. They don’t want to hear it was a Muslim person yet again who was driving into people, killing at random.

Most of my family and friends are “Cultural Muslims.” They will tell you that they are not terrorists. In fact, this is what I used to go and speak about as a Muslim woman after the 9/11 attacks. The Muslim community sees itself as a peaceful, working class group – just like any other patriotic citizen.  There is a desire to fit into the culture, yet be set apart from it due to the religion and what it entails. This is not an easy thing to do. It’s a fight I had within myself as I grew up Muslim in America.

The freedoms you have in the West do not compare to the oppression from Islamic nations. It’s really easy here to get used to being able to talk freely to everyone (including men), to speak your mind and share opinion without repercussions and to practice your religion – even at work. I enjoyed all these freedoms!

When faced with the media and portrayal of Muslims, I find a broad-brush statement like  “all Muslims are terrorists” or even “all terrorists are Muslims.” The frustration for others comes when Muslims do not stand up and deny that Islam teaches this type of behavior. It’s hard for someone who doesn’t come from this culture to understand what’s going on in the background.

Muslims – even cultural Muslims will not condemn what ISIS is doing because ISIS is indeed going by what the Quran says (see Quran 3:32, 48:29, 5:23, 9:29, 9:73, 9:111, etc). Orthodox Muslims will tell you that ISIS is those who are holding true to the Quran = real, authentic Muslims. In fact, Orthodox Muslims say that the Cultural Muslims are not real Muslims and have denounced them. 

When I was a Muslim and we showed up to the Mosque, I would inevitably get the 20 questions routine (I have blogged about this before). There is a battery of questions asked unashamedly by others. I was usually asked what my name was, my parents’ names, where we were from (city), if I was married, husband’s name (this was a kicker when I was married to an American, but remained a Muslim), if I kept all the fasts for Ramadan, if I prayed 5 times a day, on and on. They weren’t trying to be nosy – they were trying to figure out what kind of a Muslim I was. The reason why they asked is because we were not regulars to the Mosque! Should’ve been obvious we were not Orthodox in our beliefs. The question and answer session usually concluded with the person looking down at me in disdain.

Nevertheless, even the Cultural Muslims will not come out against what another Muslim is doing, especially if they have no clue as to whether or not the Quran supports it (for many have not read the Quran or have only read it in Arabic when it was not their native language). The condemnation only comes from the Orthodox Muslims for the rest of the Muslim world to follow what they are doing. This is not only scary for the Cultural Muslims (because they actually want to live in Western countries and want to work and be “normal”) but also for the rest of the population for the US and Europe. Did you follow that? Orthodox Islam condemns Cultural Muslims for their flimsy, watered-down beliefs. 

There is a definite call to follow Orthodox Islam. Saudi Arabia sets the tone for the rest of the world because it is the heart of Islam and the birthplace of Muhammad. The Muslim world looks to Saudi Arabia for everything from when the moon is in the right phase for the start of Ramadan to dictates that they set (especially Sharia law). In 2007, Saudi Arabia launched an official website for issuing of “Fatwas” (religious decrees and mandates put forth by Islamic scholars on a council, including who was an enemy of Islam).

When I speak publicly about growing up Muslim and becoming a Christian, I get responses like “well, the Muslims I know are nice people and not terrorists.” My response is that my own family is made up of nice people and not terrorists, but that isn’t the point. The point is that to say you are a Muslim, you have to believe 100% of what is in the Quran. You cannot say “I don’t believe in the violent passages of the Quran.” That is not possible. As a Muslim, it’s black or white. Either you believe or you are not a Muslim. This is the choice I was faced with when I started to read the Quran. I didn’t know there were passages about violence against women. I didn’t know that there were passages about violence against non-believers and that they were the enemy of Islam. I didn’t want to believe that. The problem was I could not then say I was a Muslim. I knew either I believed it or I did not.

Here’s just a small sample of what the Muslim Scholars say about a Muslim who doesn’t pray 5 times a day:

If the one who does not pray does not do it because he denies that it is obligatory, even though he is aware that Allah has commanded that prayer be established, then he is a kaafir and an apostate according to the consensus of the ummah. 

If a person does not pray because he denies that it is obligatory out of ignorance on his part that it is obligatory, such as one who is new in Islam, he is not deemed to be a kaafir, but he is to be taught and instructed to pray. 

Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (may Allah have mercy on him) said:  The Muslims are unanimously agreed that the one who denies that prayer is obligatory is a kaafir who is to be executed if he does not repent from that kufr. However they differed concerning the one who affirms that it is obligatory but deliberately does not do it even though he is able to.

End quote from al-Istidhkaar, 2/149 

NOTE: Kaafir = Unbeliever (usually used as an offensive word)

The choice I had to make was revealed to me by the Holy Spirit. I was led to a church, where the pastor shared the definition of GRACE with me. He also explained that Jesus was the only one who was sinless and could bridge the gap between us and God, thus giving us assurance of heaven. Muslims do not have assurance. They only have works. Either they do good deeds or they go to the fiery place and burn for an eternity. There is no Savior – it’s all up to you. This is why Jihad is so alluring. Jihad is the only 100% way to get to Paradise (Quran 4:95 & 3:169-170). It’s an act of desperation – of knowing you cannot make it to heaven because you have sinned. You cannot do it on your own, so you drive a van into a crowd.

Christians need to use this opportunity to share the message of Grace with a Muslim -that God offers us His mercy and pardon from sin as a gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23. It’s not what we do, but what Christ does that brings us to a place of peace and restoration with God and thus, with the world. The Muslim world is not our enemy. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12.  How much better would the world be if we realized we are not to hate your enemies but to love them and offer them peace found in Jesus Christ?

Quran: Jews & Christians are “Apes & Pigs”

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Shocking, isn’t it? In a world that teaches tolerance, I feel that it’s important to know what is being taughSt in the Quran and in Mosques all over the world. There are passages in the Quran that are not very kind – especially to Jews. The verse in the photo above comes directly from the Quran in Surah Al Ma’idah that says ”

Say, “Shall I inform you of [what is] worse than that as penalty from Allah ? [It is that of] those whom Allah has cursed and with whom He became angry and made of them apes and pigs (swine) and slaves of Taghut. Those are worse in position and further astray from the sound way.”

Some Muslims will find the above passage to be shocking as well. The first time I saw this, I was still a Muslim. I reasoned it away by thinking that maybe it was a one-time reference. In doing research for another book, I have found that there are multiple declarations of this passage and that Imams also refer to Hadith (traditions of Muhammad) that discuss the passages. The other instances are in Surah Al-Baqarah 2:65:

And you had already known about those who transgressed among you concerning the sabbath, and We said to them, “Be apes, despised.”

and

Surah Al A’raf 7:166:

So when they were insolent about that which they had been forbidden, We said to them, “Be apes, despised.”

 So why the pig and ape reference? Well… there are different stories. From one Muslim website (al-islam.org), we find that there was a story where Allah threatened the Jews and actually turned them into apes. Ten thousand people saw them and no one cared. Another tradition said that Israelites were fishing on a holy day (Friday, that is) and Allah turned them into apes and pigs.
Whatever the case is, the explanation does not answer why the penalty applies to BOTH Jews and Christians and also will take place on Judgment Day (according to Islam).
On another Muslim website (islamqa.infoislamqa.info), someone asked a great question “Are the Monkeys and pigs that exist nowadays humans who have been transformed?” Again, no good answer other than what was given on the other website. There is only the Hadith to go by and it says this will be a standing judgment on both Jews and Christians who do not follow Islam.
If you look further into Islamic websites, there are plenty of them that defend these verses. One man even went as far as to say that the Quran never called any human being a pig or an ape. Another said that it was just for the Jews and they were turned into apes, but there is no mention of pigs or swine. Both are incorrect. The verses are stated above and anyone can find them in a Quran both in the book and online. In addition, while the verses do not say anything about Judgment Day (as a standing decree of Allah), the Hadith mentions that this is most definitely the case and still applies to those who go against Allah’s messenger.
My own take on this: Apes and pigs were the dirtiest creatures (hence in Islam & Judaism, cannot touch pigs or eat their meat). The worst punishment would have been to be turned into one of these. I simply think it’s a threat for anyone who does not choose Islam.
So, what to do with this information? How do you still reach Muslims in love?
1. Do not argue about details. MOST MUSLIMS HAVE NOT READ THE QURAN (yes, I am yelling). There is an ignorance that exists. I say this because I was one of them. I was 30 years old and calling myself a Muslim, yet knew next to nothing that was written in the Quran. I knew bits and pieces from what I had been taught by my family and in our sporadic visits to the Mosque. I would have been absolutely appalled and in denial if I had been faced with these verses.
2. Why then did I talk about these verses here?
a. Many Christians ask me if they should read the Quran for themselves. My standard answer is “Read the Quran only AFTER you have read your own Bible cover to cover. If you are not in a Bible Study (real Bible study of scriptures) and do not know what’s in your book, you have no business reading the Quran.
b. It’s alarming to me that people say that the Quran and the Bible are both Holy Books that are the same. NOT TRUE! You will not find anything remotely close to the declarations above in the Bible.  Please be careful making the comparison like that. There are vast differences that I will cover in future posts.
3. Approaching Muslims with an attack is not Biblical. In 1 Peter 3:15, it says “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” Maybe a question and answer of what they believe would be good. I recommend starting with the question “Have you read the Quran?” and then asking “Have you read it in your own language (and not Arabic – for they may not even speak Arabic, but it’s required to read it in the language of Heaven = Arabic)?” See where that conversation goes.
4. Remember: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23. Before you met Christ, you were also in the dark. It is not possible to see unless the Holy Spirit gives us eyes to see. We have to be careful to not get frustrated or even angry. Anger is not useful and may even hurt your witness as a child of God to someone who doesn’t know.
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Let’s try to share the love ESPECIALLY since the Quran doesn’t have love to offer others.

BRAVE

by BRAVERY (1)

Over the last two weeks, I have had the privilege to listen to two very moving testimonies about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. One was our friend from Iran and the other was our friend from India. In both testimonies, there was a common denominator… the LORD called and they answered. There was also another commonality – they both had to forsake all else to follow Christ.

In the West, we have it easy. There are mega-shopping malls and mega-churches. There are gas stations at every corner and also houses of worship. We take Christianity for granted. If you feel like going to church you can walk into any place of worship. If you don’t feel like doing any of that… well, you don’t have to do that either. I have heard many say “it’s whatever makes you feel good.”

The message of the cross is not “do whatever makes you feel good.” In fact, it’s quite different. In his book “Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed follower of Jesus,” Kyle Idleman says that the church’s message should be “Come and Die.” Granted, many churches would not get very far with an advertising campaign that tells people to die to their old selves and put away all things of the flesh (and sin). It’s not a popular message. YET, this is what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 “23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.…”

When listening to each testimony, I was reminded that here in the United States, there is no heavy persecution to follow Christ. Both of these men have faced persecution from their countries and also from their families. Yet, the persecution has brought out a beautiful light that shines from each one of their faces when they both attested to the fact that Christ rescued them – one from Islam and the other from Hinduism. To be delivered from death into eternal life, to be delivered from trying to reach God from their own works to the work done on the cross for them by the sinless Christ, to be delivered from darkness into light is only something the Holy Spirit can do.

What a marvelous and beautiful Savior. May His light shine through these amazing men who live and die for Jesus. May the Lord bless them and strengthen them in their walk with Him. Amen.

 

Do Muslims & Christians Pray to the Same God?

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Katarina Church & Stockholm Mosque in Sweden

One of the frequent questions I get is “Do Muslims pray to the same God as us (Christians)?” If you would have asked me when I first became a Christian, my answer would have been unequivocally “YES!” Having been taught that Allah is the same God of Abraham (whom both Jews and Christians worship) for 35 years was the reasoning behind that answer at that time. I didn’t understand fully who God Almighty was and more specifically, who He was as revealed by Jesus Christ.

This year, I was mortified to learn that churches right here in Oklahoma City were allowing Muslims to come and pray with them. When I asked how prayers were being conducted, the two people I spoke to said that their Imam was leading the Muslim prayer with everyone there… in the church. Did I mention that this was IN THE CHURCH???

What’s wrong with that?

In my Muslim brain, I would not have seen any issues with that. Same God = Same God. No problem.

As a more mature Christian, my understanding of who we worship is very different! We, Christians worship ONE God in THREE persons: God the Father Almighty, Jesus Christ his only begotten son and the Holy Spirit. All three separate persons who have existed together since the beginning of time (for there is no time for them – they are infinite!). They are three, but ONE.

This is not only completely different than what Muslims believe, it is also considered to be “Shirk.” Shirk is the ultimate sin of blasphemy that puts another equal to God. In Islam, the belief in Allah is called Tawhid. Tawhid comes from the Arabic root word for ONE “Wahid.” One means only one – not a father, no son and no Holy Spirit. In fact, in the Quran, the Trinity is called out by Isa (Jesus) in verse 5:116 (Yusuf Ali):

And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah‘?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden.

Yes… that’s right. The Quran points out that Christians believe the Trinity is Allah, Jesus and Mary. The next few lines say that is blasphemy and guess what… CHRISTIANS AGREE!  In fact, the Bible attests to this fact numerous times in both the Old & the New Testament:

Deuteronomy 6:4 (the Shema) ~ “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [NOTE: Jesus repeats this in Mark 12:29]

8:1 Corinthians 6 ~ yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

In Islam, the five daily prayers (Salat) attest to the Muslim belief that Allah is only ONE and that there are no others equal to him. In fact, there is a beautiful prayer I used to recite each time  I prayed and that is called “Surah Fatiha (the beginning prayer).” The Fatiha is prayed at least 16 times a day and can also be prayed upwards of 48 times a day.  I would pray this prayer as often as I could as a Muslim.

It is important to note that just in one prayer (there are multiple prayers recited in Arabic during each of the 5 times of Salat), there is a denunciation of the Triune Christian God and also it says that Jews and Christians are going into the path of destruction. Again, I urge you to not just take my word for it, but to look it up for yourself (www.muslimconverts.com). Here’s a screenshot of the prayer with translation in English. Many Muslims have no clue what they are reciting because they have to pray in Arabic and don’t even speak the language.

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Repeated 16-48 times by every Muslim during the day

In the name of inclusion and diversity, people are willing to consider Islam as the same as Christianity.  It is not the same – that’s the beauty of real diversity in the United States – that we can worship how we want. I am 100% on board for people wanting to open their hearts to Muslims – we should not only open our hearts, but also our homes. The only caution I give is to not compromise when it comes to belief and worship. Worship of the LORD our God YHWH is sacred and should be kept that way. Christians cannot stand in our place of worship with someone next to them who is denying the Triune God and His Christ with his every word.

Instead of asking do Muslims worship the same God, I think we need to be clear that Christians DO NOT worship the same God. 

This is what I believe, along with the thousands before me (The Apostle’s Creed):

Amen and Amen…

*NOTE: “The holy catholic church” does not mean the Roman Catholic church. It is a term that means the Church Universal (the big “C” Church!)! 🙂

Father’s Day

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My father and me in Murree, Pakistan

Father’s Day is a reminder to us to go back and think of our earthly father who has influenced us over the course of our life. My father has been a generous source of caring and love. I have photos of him carrying his daughters around and you can see his giant grin that goes from ear to ear. He is the kind of father that is ready with a hilarious joke, a well-told story or the loving kindness in his smile – even for strangers.

Over the years, I have come to the realization that some don’t have a warm, fuzzy recollection of our father. For some, that person was just a “donor” and left soon after they were born. Others never knew an earthly father who raised them up.

We live in a broken, messed up world. There are painful stories people have shared with me that have brought me to tears, listening to the cruelty and heartbreak of an uncaring, missing father. Some of these personal stories have left me wondering how does this person carry on with their life or even more than that – how do they have a role model to follow?

Not only did I have my father who raised me up, but we had the additional blessing of having our maternal grandparents who lived with us for several years. My grandfather (lovingly called “Abba”) was also kind, caring and ready to sit with you. He wanted to be involved in your life and was genuine in his affection.  He was quiet in his manners and demeanor but made you feel special even when you sat next to him. He had all the time in the world to spend with you.

When I became a Christian, imagine my surprise at reading about how Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6: “Our Father in heaven,  hallowed be your name…” He told them to call God their Father. It even got more strange for me, because I was told the Aramaic (what Jesus spoke to his disciples) – “Abba.”  I about flipped out of my chair that Sunday morning! Abba was my grandfather – my grandpa. Abba was not God Almighty’s name!

As a Muslim, I was taught that God was way up high in the heavens and that he was indifferent to us unless it was during the time of prayer. You see, as  a Muslim, you have to have an appointment to truly talk to God. Even then, you aren’t really “talking” to him as an equal. You are bringing in your petition like a slave does to a king. You bow down low (literally the case during prayer) and then you say certain verses in Arabic. You don’t just plop down on the couch and chit chat with God (YIKES! Blasphemous!) but you approach His throne (see another post I wrote on this here: MY Dad’s Chair) carefully so you don’t cause offense.

There is no relationship with God. That is just a ridiculous notion to a Muslim. When I heard someone praying and calling God Almighty her “Daddy,” I freaked out then also. I did not realize that Jesus had given us the model to pray. We truly DO have the freedom to call Him our Father in Heaven, as well as “Abba.” He is just that close to us in a true relationship.

What a mind-blowing revelation to me! Yet, many Christians take this fact as nothing special. When we realize that we have officially been adopted into the Kingdom of the LORD God Almighty – creator of Heavens and earth, we should be shaking in our shoes. Instead, He welcomes us into an embrace – He runs to us (Prodigal Son parable – see Luke 15:20) with joy and His arms open wide!

On Father’s Day today, if you have a crummy earthly father, don’t give up hope. If you have a missing earthly father, don’t give up looking. If you have a wonderful earthly father, give God praise. For all of us, remember that we have a PERFECT Heavenly Father who is waiting for us very patiently to return to Him so He will run to us, embrace us, and call us His child.  What a wonderful God, Redeemer and Savior we have! Amen.

A Christian’s Guide to RAMADAN

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I used to dread Ramadan as a Muslim… I knew I was supposed to look forward to it each year, but it was so much better to simply ignore it was coming and that I would be judged by how many fasts (“Roza” in Urdu) I would keep.  On the occasions I would fast, I would sleep all day, get headaches, try to brush my teeth because I couldn’t have water and even passed out from dizziness (I used to pass out all the time growing up).  I wrote another blog about fasting here last year.

All of that was worth the night time activities. Being one who enjoys having people over to our home, the evenings would be a time of celebration (we made it!) and we would feast, play board games and cards and eat full meals again until the wee hours of the morning before sunrise… only to do it all over again.

There was even a joke in our family-if you weren’t fasting and if someone asked you if you were keeping your fast, you should always say “yes, I keep it in my closet.” The bottom line is that for Muslims, keeping a fast is a matter of honor and shame for your family. Muslims will ask you straight up if you are fasting or not to see how pious you are (or not, in my case). There is definitely a sense of pressure from the community. This is not felt so greatly in Pakistan or in the Middle East because everyone there assumes you are fasting – it’s just what you do. During the day, restaurants are open only to foreigners (and even that is limited).  In some Muslim countries, it is a punishable crime to eat and drink in the public during Ramadan and the religious police look for people! Everything shuts down, so the only thing to do for women, especially is to watch long movies and sleep.

For many Christians, Ramadan is a mystery. I hope today to untangle some of those confusing ideas.

  1. Ramadan starts upon the sighting of the crescent moon by Saudi Arabia’s High Judicial Court. The dates always vary of when Ramadan starts due to Islam’s use of a lunar calendar (hence the shape of the moon on all things Muslim).  Fasting is for 30 days.
  2. TODAY, May 27 is the first day of Ramadan for 2017
  3. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the FIVE Pillars of Faith (requisite checklist for all Muslims)
  4. It’s not truly fasting as in the Christian sense of the word (completely abstaining from food and water like Jesus did in the desert (see Matthew 4) for 40 days and nights. Fasting for Ramadan is a flip of night and day. You can eat all you want from sunset to sunrise – you don’t touch food or water (not even a sip, otherwise you break your fast) from sunrise to sunset. It’s embarrassing for a Muslim to gain weight during this time!
  5. Ramadan is a time for prayer. Muslims try to get closer to God. WE CAN HELP!!!
  6. Join a Christian movement called “30 days of Prayer”  http://www.30daysprayer.com/ to pray for the Muslim world to come to the LORD. The website also has a devotional book you can order, as well as e-mail reminders to pray for the Muslims around you.
  7. Women who are pregnant or nursing (or menstruating) cannot fast. They will have to make up their fasts at a later time in order to do their duty as a Muslim. Children and the very elderly do not have to fast. There are also some exemptions made for athletes and those who are traveling.
  8. Some Christians I know want to fast in solidarity with their Muslim friends – you can most definitely do that (=freedom in Christ!), however please note that fasting during Ramadan is complete with religious obligations and rules set forth by Islam. Don’t follow those rules or do something contrary to the beliefs you have in Christ Jesus. These two religions are very, very different! Make it clear why you are fasting so that they don’t get the wrong idea or so that you are not misleading them into believing something else. Be clear about who you follow, that’s all.
  9. We can enter joyfully into a fast and even share the breaking of the fast party with our Muslim friends and neighbors. Let them know that Jesus allowed Christians to fast in Matthew 6:16-17 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.”
  10. At the end of Ramadan, all Muslims celebrate Eid — many of my fond memories as a child revolve around us celebrating Eid with so much joy! Eid is scheduled for June 25 this year.

69859_artworks-000076178737-9xpof4-originalMuslims are our neighbors, and Jesus instructed us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mat 22:39) Pray For Muslims in Love. Invite them to your home! 

The Bible says: 15and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. ~James 5:15-17