All Ways Lead to God?

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When I share my testimony with others, I share John 14:6 – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Most times, I am speaking at Christian gatherings, yet within the crowd I will almost always get someone who wants to speak with me afterwards about how offensive it was to them that I stated that the only way to God is through Christ Jesus. Again… speaking at CHRISTIAN gatherings.

I am not sure when the idea of tolerance included getting away from scripture. If you are a Christian and you believe in the sanctity of the written revelation of God through the Bible, then you cannot dispute Jesus Christ’s own words. Either you believe or you don’t believe. It’s that simple.

Or is it?

At this point, I usually get called “narrow-minded” or “arrogant” to have that view. I am told that the world is not black and white. There is no real right or wrong way of thinking.

As someone who has a real desire to be liked, it is difficult to be called “offensive, narrow-minded, and arrogant.” Yet, we are told that the world will hate us (see John 15:18). Paul even tells us that we are fools for Christ’s sake in 1 Corinthians 4:10  and this is usually how the rest of my own family views me for believing in Christ as I do. The world wants you to choose a watered down Gospel. They want you to agree with them and say there are many roads to heaven and God. At the same time, they don’t realize that this is an arrogant view to take because they are saying “You are wrong for believing in one way. You need to believe the way I believe.” They are also narrow-minded, for they do not take into account that other religions do not believe in many ways to God – like Islam! Muslims, for one, would laugh at you if you took that approach with them and they would set you straight by telling you that the only way is through following the 5 pillars of faith and through good works in the name of Allah.

If you are in Christ, stand firm in the foundation of His WAY of grace as a free gift that no one has earned through works, His TRUTH as revealed in the Gospel, and the eternal LIFE only He has paid for through the shedding of His blood on the cross. Amen.

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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?

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!)! 🙂

Scared to Death

 

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From Camberley Mosque, UK

My first experience with death was in High School. Until then, it was not very personal. I had never attended funerals at all. I didn’t really think much about death or that life was going to have to end at one point or another. Many of you know I lived a fairly sheltered life. Our family moved around a lot when I was growing up. Several of my relatives passed away when I was very young (less than four years old) or were living in another country, so I did not get to have a relationship with them.

All of that changed when my grandmother passed away. She had heart issues but was in her late 50’s, so her death was unexpected and sudden. My grandparents had been living with us for a few years prior to moving out to a small home, so this was a relatively close relationship. Her death hit me very hard.

It wasn’t because I missed her or was upset about her death (sounds callous, I know). It was mainly because as a selfish teenager, all of a sudden it became about ME. I realized I didn’t know what to expect when I died. What did the Quran say about death? I knew there were angels on my right and left shoulder who noted my good and bad deeds to report them to Allah, but apart from that, I didn’t know.

When I was a little girl, I was told that when you sleep at night, your soul dies a little death and that God will return your soul to you in the morning if He wills it. This was also a pretty scary thing to consider as a small Muslim child. Here in the West, children are worried about the monsters hiding in their closet, but for the Muslims, you actually died at night!

From the Quran (al An’aam 6:60)

“It is He, Who takes your souls by night (when you are asleep), and has knowledge of all that you have done by day”

Interpretation – Hadith Al Bukhaari, 7474

 

It was narrated from Abu Qataadah (may Allah be pleased with him) that when they slept and missed the prayer, the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Verily Allah took your souls when He willed, and He returned them when He willed.”

When I asked my father, he replied that Muslims believed that Allah does indeed take into account the good and bad deeds and that all Muslims work towards increasing the balance of the good deeds so that the scales will tip in their favor. This led me to even more questions: how do you know how much each good and bad deed is worth? Are they all weighed the same? It can’t be! Isn’t murder worth more than a lie? What about a lie to my parents versus a lie to an unbeliever? Are they the same? Does one have a higher penalty than the other?

Muslims have no answers to those questions! There is no assurance of salvation, no pardon, nothing to rely on. You have to believe that Allah is most merciful and that He will tip the balance for you, but then again, the Quran says that Allah can change His mind — how do you know for sure?

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This is where the relief for me came in. It took another 20 years for me to come to Christ and the Holy Spirit showed me that indeed, I was a horrible Muslim. I tried to pray five times a day, but didn’t (meetings at work, luncheons, appointments, you name it). I tried to fast, but couldn’t (meetings at work, luncheons, migraine headaches, etc). I tried to give alms on a regular basis and did pretty well at that. Overall, I fell short of even meeting the checklist for the five pillars of faith (see my post on fasting). I was convicted by the Holy Spirit that these things were not going to get me to heaven. Only ONE thing could do that for me and that was Christ.

In John 14, Jesus speaks to His disciples and tells them not to worry.  He says:

Jesus Comforts His Disciples

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in Goda ; believe also in me. 2My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus the Way to the Father

5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really know me, you will know b my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

What comforting words! He does not promise that we will prosper here on earth. He doesn’t tell us to do five, ten or fifteen things on a checklist. He says He is the way and we can come through Him. He says “get to know me.” He says He will come back and take us. We don’t even have to look for a way or find it on our own. We don’t have to do anything other than accept Christ for who He is: the way, the truth and the life. He is the WAY to God. He is the TRUTH that so many are searching for and He is preparing a home for us to live in… not to die in, but to live.

In Matthew 22:32, Jesus talks to the Sadducees (Jewish priests) and says “‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

In Christ, we only have the shadow of death (Psalm 23). We pass from life here into eternal life with Him. Matthew 4:16 says “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” 

What a joy and a relief for me on the day that I realized I did not have to sit in the shadow of death. I didn’t have to worry about what would happen to me, for the great light of Christ shined upon me! What a comfort to know – truly know that what God had planned from creation was going to be set right in Christ. He does truly love us and knows us by name. He will come and bring us back to be with Him. He promises this.

No Muslim (or anyone else) has this assurance! When I became a Christian, I asked my first Bible Study group why they weren’t shouting about this from the rooftops? What an amazing burden to be lifted off of me. I was scared to death of death and dying! I had nights where I found I couldn’t sleep. Before I had my first C-Section (my first surgery), I really thought that I might have to go and have my scales be weighed in front of God. I knew I was going to the “escalator down.” There’s no way, I would be admitted into heaven based on what I had done (or not done in my case).

Why hide this from others? Why not share what Christ has done for you? Do you have this assurance or do you still worry about where you are going when you die? If you are in Christ and you know Him, then you know the way, the truth and will have eternal life TODAY.

OVERFLOW!

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may OVERFLOW with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit ~ Romans 15:13

What does each day look like for you? Is there an overflow of love, joy, peace, goodness, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control? I can tell you that I had an extra piece of dessert today at lunchtime (yes, the cookie from Panera Bread was indeed forced upon me!) so the “self-control” part wasn’t looking too good today.

Does it seem like there is a parched desert instead of rivers of living waters emanating from you? Why is it that some people dwell in a state of calmness while others get irritated at the smallest of things?

I can answer that.

Since I have started the discipline of reading God’s Word in the Holy Bible on a daily basis, something is changing within me. There are reminders throughout the day that bring me back from the brink of anger, irritation, sadness and other things that want to move me out of my peace with Christ. For example, I had a meeting that got moved at the last minute, causing me to have a conflict with another and thus, lose income. I could have been furious at that, but instead chose to look at it as something that may instead have been a part of how today was supposed to be planned. Maybe it was for the best that I was already in one place and had to miss the other. Things happen for a reason. I have to trust that there is a bigger purpose from God and that He truly is involved in my daily work.

Christ said that He is the bread of life (John 6:48). Christ is also the Word of God (the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… John 1:14). The Word of God is how we can stay full in an empty world. How can you feed others and pour into them when you are starving yourself? If you do not feed daily on the Bible and take in what God says to you, then it is predicted that you will wither on the vine (John 15:4). Bible illiteracy is at an all-time high.

I am so amazed at Christians who tell me that they have read the Quran and when I ask them if they have read the Bible cover to cover, they sheepishly tell me “no!” We had a pastor who once told of his own testimony that when he was in seminary, reading the Bible was not mandatory. He felt convicted to start reading the Bible when he realized that he had read “The Lord of the Rings” by Tolkien more times than he had read the Bible. Since then, he took great care to read the bible cover to cover every year.

What’s going on? Why won’t Christians take the time to read? I have a few theories on this:

  1. Too busy – children’s sports, recitals, needs, wants, etc. and demands of work and life
  2. Too intimidating! Have you ever started at Genesis and tried to read the next few books? By the time most get to Numbers, their eyes glaze over and it ends there
  3. Too complex – there are more interesting things to read. Why not read a fictional book about the Bible instead?
  4. Takes too long – have you seen how big the Bible is?

Reading the Bible and making time to read are disciplines. It’s no different than going on a diet or exercising. You have to set realistic goals and try to stick to them. You have to be INTENTIONAL.

I started off trying to carve out a little Quiet Time at the end of my day to pray, read a verse, meditate and pray some more. I was already crocheting before bedtime, so this was not that hard to do. The next step was to actually crack open my Bible and start reading a passage or two to meditate upon. Again, not too difficult, once I placed my Bible by my yarn. Next, I decided to try to read the Bible daily for 30 days. Most professionals will tell you that it takes a minimum of 30 days to start a habit.

Guess what? The 30 days came & went. I was encouraged! 30 days turned into 90 days and now, I have been reading the Bible consistently for almost a year.By the way, “consistently” means that I may have skipped a day or two, but I don’t let that get me down or give up on the whole thing! I have made it through the entire old testament (which I had read before) and now am going through parts of the new. A good way to start your reading is NOT at the start.

RC Sproul recommends that you take 3 sections at a time. Start with Genesis, Psalms, and Luke. You will be amazed at how the 3 correlate! You don’t have to read entire chapters. Just a bit at a time. why-study-the-bible

As you start dusting off that Bible you got years ago as a gift (to yourself or from someone else), you will find that you will start to recall more and more of what Christ says. Some verses will jump out to you more than others and you will begin to think, dwell and examine God’s word. This is what “meditating” on God’s word means. It means to chew on it and think about it and roll it around in your head.

May the fountain of living water never dry up again in you. May you resemble the River Jordan that overflows with life, instead of the Dead Sea where everything ends and dies. May the waters that run through you water those who are also thirsting for peace, joy and eternal life. Christ says “… but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14). Amen!

 

 

Wives, Submit to Your Husbands

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Discarded signs photo from Ben Ferguson CNN Commentator’s Facebook page

I know… them are fightin’ words! I can’t help it. I read the Bible and actually believe what it says. Before you jump all over me, just read a little bit further. I am about the last person who is submissive. I am known as an outspoken (some might even call me a loud-mouth) woman who knows her own mind. I have been so vocal in some cases to hurt people’s feelings. Many would say that I am just about the last person who should write even a sentence on this topic.

I want to tell you that ever since I understood, I mean REALLY understood the meaning of the word “SUBMIT,” I have been a changed person and have taken to heart what Ephesians 5:22 says. First, let’s start with the word “submit.” It’s taken as a dirty word. Say it to any woman and she will immediately turn her nose up at it. Women are head-strong. We don’t want to be beholding to anyone and certainly not any man. That’s the amazing thing about this. If we say this to women, we freak out. However, if we apply the word “submit” to Christ, any woman will tell you that His submission to God was a beautiful thing (and rightly so).

Christ submitted to the will of His Father all the way to a horrific death on the cross. He went willingly. He knew what He had to do and He did it… in submission to God. You cannot take this verse out of context and only a part of the verse – you need to know the whole thing. Anytime someone reads you a verse, you should automatically look at what comes before and what comes after. So, let’s take a look at the whole thing, including before & after Ephesians 5:22:

21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

Did you catch that?  The first part says EVERYONE should submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. That means we should allow other Christians to go ahead of us, not insist on our own rights and definitely give them the benefit of doubt in situations. Now for the hairy part.

If we are doing this with one another in the church, why are we not doing this for our own husbands? Paul also makes it a point to say do this as you do it for the Lord – in other words, do this out of reverence for God and His order. Do it out of a love for God the Father. Do it because you honor God… just the way Christ submitted to God and was tortured for our sins before He was placed upon the cross.

When we look at the verses in that frame of mind, it truly becomes a beautiful and God-honoring thing. He doesn’t want women to “check their brains at the door” or even be subjected to some brutal tyrant who abuses them. That’s not who God is and your husband shouldn’t be like that either because the next few lines address him!

Ephesians 5:25 says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Husbands are asked to literally DIE for their wives, whereas we are simply asked to set aside our attitudes for a minute. Which one do you think is the bigger request? Why do we get our panties in a wad over this, then?

I was asked about the Women’s march yesterday from one of my family members. I told her “No, I am not interested in that type of a demonstration.” Ignoring my opinion, she went on to tell me that Madonna, of all people, was standing up for women and also dropping the f-bomb. This is not loving, caring or moving towards positive regard for women. How can it be?

The answers do not lie in what man tells us to do. They lie in God’s words and His established order. Everything that operates outside of that does not operate in perfect love. His directions for us is to submit to one another. I didn’t see that in the march. In fact, I see exactly the opposite… insist on your opinion and insist on stepping on men’s heads to grab what you want. That’s not love. That’s offensive.

Love comes from not insisting on your own rights, allowing people to go first in line, taking the smallest portion of what’s being offered to you. This is not easy to do. As I mentioned at the start of the blog, this is something I struggle with daily. I have to remind myself to submit to my husband. When he treats me with the love of Christ, though, it is really easy to do. That’s the whole secret that Paul lays out for us in Ephesians. If it was easy or natural for men to LOVE their wives, they would show us that love daily and not just on our anniversary or Valentine’s Day. If it was natural for women to SUBMIT, then we would not have a special line in the Bible, telling us to behave that way. It goes against our nature… that’s why we need supernatural help from God!

I chose the photo above to use for today’s blog. It’s a good reminder that after you’ve insisted upon your rights, there is debris and collateral damage left behind in your wake. If they truly cared for one another and for their views, then caring for their own community is the first step. Go out there and help another woman. Go volunteer in your local women’s shelter, Go & attend the new launch of the Community of Christian Business Women (our first meeting is Monday, January 30 from 6:00 to 7:00 pm!!!). Go & show love with your actions. Don’t just talk about your rights, trample on men, and then dump your sign in the streets. You’re not doing anyone any favors.

 

Purpose

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There are two questions I have seen people wrestle with: Who Am I? Why Am I Here? This is a common theme in the University classroom, in the business sector – especially in Human Resources or Management coaching, and in conversations around the teapot at my house. The world tells us things we should do everyday. Use this toothpaste for whiter teeth, drink this coffee to help sustain coffee plantations in South America, or wear these clothes so you can fit in with others.

I didn’t have these questions when I was growing up. Traditions in the Asian culture has parents make those decisions. They choose what school you will go to, which college you will attend, what professional degree program you will join and also who you are going to marry. It’s all planned out… nice and neat. You are told that you don’t have to worry about dating because they already have in mind a family who has a nice son. They tell you that you will probably end up making this much money because you will be a doctor, engineer or lawyer. This is not a bad thing, it’s just the way the Eastern part of the world sees things.

Of course, the problem with me was that I was NOT living in that part of the world! Even though my parents enrolled me in a college I didn’t want to go to, in a field I did not want to pursue – (they chose the school based on their Dentistry program, obviously dismissing the fact that I was scared of the Dentist). Much to my parents’ dismay, I changed my school to one that had a medical school and changed my intent from Dentistry to pre-med (I did keep my major in the Biological Sciences though, as a consolation prize). In other words, I didn’t do what I was supposed to do.

Things didn’t stop there. I ended up meeting my husband and we decided to marry. So, I didn’t go to the school they wanted, the profession they chose, and I disregarded the marriage future they chose for me, for I was to have an arranged marriage as my older sister did. After college, however, I settled in neatly to a job at Campbell Soup Company.

The first change came when the Vice President of Human Resources asked me what I wanted to do? Guess what… no one had EVER asked me that before. I was dumbfounded! I must have looked like an idiot because I told him that with my eyes open in surprise. He sat back in his chair and said “Well, have you ever thought about what you are good at or what you would like to do for work? Do you like what you are doing now?” For a person who loves to talk, I had nothing. I stared at him again. I did manage to ask him “What do you think I should do? I am willing to learn.” Apparently that was a good question because he had me look into Human Resources – a career that I adore and have done now for two decades.

None of this ever pointed to my spiritual life. This was just work and career related. Again, I was pretty clear on who I was as a Muslim (= God is the Master, you are a Slave) and what my purpose was (= to live a good life and do the five pillars so I could get into Heaven). I didn’t need to have a purpose. I just obeyed like I was supposed to… well, kind of.

I tried fasting, but would get major headaches. I tried praying five times a day, but it was really tough with holding down a full time job and two children at that time. So, even in that, I didn’t do what I was supposed to do.

What is someone’s purpose in life? Is it to get that degree?  Is it to get the next promotion or raise? Is it to get a bigger car or nicer house? Have you achieved your purpose when you have 2.5 children? I have done those things and even more (we have 3.0 kids!), but that has left me with wanting more. I really thought that getting a big home would truly satisfy me. The only thing it does is give me more rooms to clean. It sounds very ungrateful.But  I think that’s the TRUTH. I truly believe it is ungrateful to God to continue to want more than what He has provided for me. The promotions, career, home still didn’t tell me why I was created. What am I supposed to be doing? Is this all there is to life? You get in your nice car, go to your nice job, come back to your nice home and do that again over and over again?

life-purpose

I think what leaves us flat is that the purpose of life has to be bigger than simply fulfilling our own desires. When you go to the Bible, you get a very clear answer for the purpose God created you. It’s in Isaiah 43:7 ~”Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made…” This verse says we are created for one reason and one purpose: to glorify God in all we do. This seems a bit strange at first. Why shouldn’t I follow my own purpose? The answer is that you can, but by running after these transitional things, you will not be satisfied. If you look to others for your purpose, they may be contrary to your desires. If you get your purpose from doing things, you will get burned out because you are doing it on your own power and not on God’s provision for you.

I love the story of Jonah in the Bible (not just because of the whale). I love it because he chose to say “no” to God and insisted on doing his own thing. God gave him a clear purpose and marching assignment. Jonah ignored, turned away and ran off to do his own thing. THEN he got swallowed up by the whale.

It reminds me of when our oldest son was little. We would ask him to do something little like clean up his toys in his room. He said “No! I won’t do it” His refusal didn’t change our mind or outcome or anything else. It just added more time and drama to the thing we wanted and needed him to do. I think that’s how it is with us and God’s purpose. I think we sometimes know what God wants us to do and we say “No! I won’t do it” and run the other way. Other times, we try to do things on our own power like serving in the church or other ministry that we wanted to do (and not necessarily what God desired for us to do), and we burn out. We get swallowed up… just like Jonah.

So what should we do? For the Christian, purpose for our life can be narrowed down by asking God. Prayer is a wonderful way to start. It can be very simple, like “Lord, I will be obedient to your will and serve you in the way you have planned for me.” The next thing is to read and study His Word. God’s Word in the Bible is true and holy. It shines light into our life and brings comfort. God is really clear on how He has made you and what He thinks about you (see my post on Identity). Jesus told us “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” ~ Matthew 7:7. If we ask the Creator, you will be given what you are looking for. If you are searching for answers to other questions, you will find the answers in His Word. If you think that God has closed the door to reconciliation or to your dreams, knock on it. You will find that Jesus had already been standing there, patiently waiting for you.

Identity

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About two years ago, Saudi Arabia passed a law that allowed women to have an identity card (see article from Riyadh Times). Why is that such a big deal? Prior to that, according to Quranic laws, women had to bring male acquaintances along with them to identify who they were. You see, women are not allowed to testify in court unless they have been identified and the only way they can do that is to have men establish their true identity for the judge. Of course, if the case was due to adultery or accusations of a sexual nature, women were reluctant to bring men (or might not be able to find a man who would vouch for them).

This is the predicament women find themselves in some countries. In the West, we have so many freedoms that we take them all for granted and don’t really give it another thought. If you want an identity card or driver’s license, you just go, pay a small fee and get it. No one questions you.

Yet, it is in the West that I find so many women struggle with their identity. I have women who come to me for Executive Coaching for work. These are women in high positions who don’t really know who they are. I also talk to stay at home moms who seem to have lost their way, teenagers who don’t understand which role they should play, how they should dress, which group would be most accepting of them. Why is that?

Society throws different ideas around of who women are (sexual objects, wife, mother, I am a goddess, hear me roar, etc) and I am convinced that the women’s lib movements caused more confusion by saying you can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. You don’t need to depend on anyone but yourself. Right after the movements of the 60’s and 70’s, the US saw divorce rates go through the roof. Women initiate 2/3 of the Divorces in the United States (see article for study). It doesn’t stop there. Harvard Health reported that the use of anti-depressants in the US has increased a whopping 400% since 1994. They estimate that 1 in 10 takes an anti-depressant… women’s lib isn’t really panning out to be the answer, is it?

So where is the answer? Both men and women search for their identity. We turn to others as if they have the answer for us. Chances are that they haven’t even figured it out themselves. The answer lies in the One who made us. Genesis 1:27 says that “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” In one of my favorite passages of Genesis 2:21-22, God creates Woman “21So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.…” It’s interesting to note that Adam noticed that creation was not complete without a helper for him and even more interesting to see that Adam is put to sleep while God does “divine surgery” on him. We can infer from the passage that when Eve was created, she also was alone with God. Herein lies the secret to our identity. Not only were we created in God’s image and bear a stamp of his likeness, but we get a close-up view of how God feels about us when we spend time alone with Him.

I am most confused when I listen to the voices of the world “You should do this” “Why are you spending time on that?” or “You would be good at that.” These are well-meaning family and friends, but the One who really knows you before you were even born (Psalm 139) is the One you should turn to first to find out who you are and what you should be doing. When we establish our identity through others (“oh, she’s the pretty one” or “she’s a cut-throat business woman”), we continue on in our own insecurities and weaknesses.

It wasn’t until I met Christ that I found out who I was. I was looking towards my dad (whom I love dearly) to provide everything I needed in life. When I got married, I simply transferred all those expectations on to my husband (whom I love dearly). What a huge burden for him to bear! Christ says “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. He didn’t say to give all your burdens and expectations and place them upon others to fulfill you. Yet, that’s what we do! We expect our boss to know what we need to be happy at work. We expect our spouse to know what makes us happy at home. We expect our children to know what makes us happy as parents. However, none is better equipped to bring you true JOY than the Lord.

God has invited us into a relationship with Him. Some of the words God uses to describe us are: Forgiven. Chosen. Redeemed. Holy. Beloved. Child. Heir. New Creation. Cleansed. Daughter. Glory of Man.

So when you find yourself saying:

I am worthless     REMEMBER: Matthew 6:26 ~Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

I am a failure     REMEMBER: Phil 4:13 ~I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

I am unlovable   REMEMBER: Romans 8:39 ~nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I have so much guilt   REMEMBER: Isaiah 43:25 ~I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

I have nothing   REMEMBER: Phil 4:19 ~And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Don’t listen to the voices that accuse. Listen to the voice that gives life. God is the One who created us and He is our heavenly Father who loves us. This is your identity as one created in His image. You bear the fingerprints of God. If you get confused and find out that you have no plan or feelings of self-worth, turn to the scriptures for the truth of who you are and why you were created.

My prayer for you: Lord, thank you for creating me in your image. Help me to see myself and others with your eyes. Help me to not elevate myself over others or you and to not let myself be degraded by others opinions. I want to live in your light, as you are in the light. Amen.

 

 

East to West

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When I teach Cultural Diversity, my students often laugh at some of the stories I tell about growing up in the East. Things are simply viewed differently on that side of the globe. In this post, I talk about how Time, for example, is looked upon as a completely different entity. Also, the idea of personal space is enormously different in Oklahoma than it is even in New York, much less the eastern hemisphere. Language varies as well. One often wonders with all these differences, how do we even get along with one another without stepping all over each other’s toes?

I personally believe that people in the United States are kind and more open to discussions of your background, where you lived, where you grew up and also ethnicity. This is a part of the foundation for the country – Ellis Island was a beacon of hope for many immigrants at the turn of the century. This country is made up of people from all over the world.

As I contemplate the differences, you have to be struck with some of the similarities we all have as human beings: desire to be loved, valued, and treated with respect. If you don’t believe me, just go driving with someone and see their reaction when another driver cuts them off on the road. There is indignation built right into that for just about everyone.

Whether I am teaching management or sharing my testimony about Christ, I am almost always asked about my background and point of view on various matters. For some, the idea of a burqa or hijab is of concern. For others, it is the exotic locale of the Middle East or Asia and how life is for people there. Yet, there are others who ask me about what my views were like about Jesus when I was growing up in a Muslim country.

If you ask a Muslim person about Jesus (by the way, they would LOVE to talk about Jesus – seriously. It’s not offensive. Christians just think that Muslims would be offended), you will find that some  Muslims will smile and tell you “We Muslims have more respect for Jesus than you do as Christians.” At first, you might not believe this. However, the Quran has an entire chapter on Christ, titled after his mother, Mary. The chapter is called “Miryam.” Mary is the only woman in the Quran to be called by name. She is given a place of high honor and esteem, as is Jesus (“Isa” in the Quran). Muslims have to hold all prophets as holy. They believe that their books are holy. For this reason, Muslims will not say bad things about Jesus because he is a holy person of God. This is not always the case with what you might find in the West. We have the gift of freedom and free speech. It seems like the name of Jesus is a free for all and many people choose to even use his name as a blasphemy (anything that is not held in honor and also using it casually or when you are mad – almost as a curse word).

The Eastern mind operates differently than the Western mind. Many times, I am asked “Why” by people. Why does this happen, why would God do this? Why is this the case and why is this written? For those who grew up in eastern countries, the “Why” is not that important, especially when it comes to things of God. If God is sovereign and He wills it, then so be it. Who are you to ask why? This can be a good and a bad thing. It’s good because it places God above mankind and our brains – He is infinite! We cannot think through everything and know the answer to everything. We are finite beings. We have a definite beginning and end. It is a bad thing because the “Why’s” are not encouraged. So when I had questions about the Quran or even teaching in school, it’s frowned upon by your elders to keep asking “why? why? why?”  This type of thought is greatly discouraged because it is considered rude or even challenging authority.

So the question is- how does the East come together with the West when we are on absolute opposites of the compass?

When you look at the Bible, you find some interesting things about people from all over coming to the table of Christ.  Luke 13:29 says “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.” What does this mean? It means that Christ is preparing a table for us. He is getting ready many things in preparation for us to eat with him. How does one do this? He says “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20. Christ doesn’t mind if you stand at the door and knock or even stand there and ask questions. He took care to address his disciple Thomas’s statements about how he would never believe  unless he put his finger into Christ’s wounds. Jesus didn’t get furious say “Thomas, how dare you question if I am the same Christ who was crucified!” Instead, when he later appeared to the whole group, Jesus said “Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”John 20:27

Jesus is the only one who can connect the wide gap between the east and the west. The Psalmist wrote “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12 Those same hands that Thomas wanted to see are the ones that bring the east and the west together through the shedding of blood and redemption in one cross.This is the grace and mercy God shows each one of us. Jesus is the one who provides us the love (enough to die for us), gave us value (allows us to be called children of God),  and gives us respect for others (new commandment: love one another as I have loved you).

The song by Casting Crowns sums all this in a beautiful way:

Jesus, can You show me just how far the east is from the west?
‘Cause I can’t bear to see the man I’ve been
Come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
‘Cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other

 

 

The Sacrifice of the Lamb

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One day, a man visited our home in Pakistan and he brought along the sweetest thing I had ever seen in my life. We were not allowed to have our own pets. We had a guard dog, but the guard (sometimes chauffeur) used to feed, pet, keep the dog. We played with him sometimes, but it was greatly frowned upon by my nanny who insisted on scrubbing us down if we had even touched the dog, for dogs are considered dirty in Islam.

The man brought something even more special than a dog… he had a rope and at the end of that rope was a little lamb. It had a sweet face and just stared at us, chewing on whatever it was in his mouth. My parents took the lamb from him and thanked him. My older sister immediately fell in love with it and said that she would only feed it flowers, for it was too precious to eat just plain straw and grass that the man had brought along with him. She took the lamb’s leash and ran off to the heavily flowered garden in front of our home where she stayed true to her promise.

Each day, we played with the lamb until we got used to its presence. It would roam around our home and three gardens (one at the front, in the middle between our house and annex and then one at the back of the annex). I remember just sitting outside, watching it roam around and eat a few nibbles from my hand. Never did we question where this gift came from or why my parents decided to get us a lamb as a pet. We simply enjoyed it.

Early one morning, I awoke to a very loud noise of someone crying… no, it was almost like a child’s scream. I jumped out of bed, scared to death and the screaming/crying noise would not go away. I ran out of the house, still in my pajamas, and followed the horrific sounds as they were coming from the back garden. As I approached, I knew something was terribly wrong. There were men with beards standing around the back faucet, where we had a small concrete basin for washing off yard dirt or larger, messy chores.

One of the men saw me staring with eyes as large as saucers at the scene. He screamed at our cook “Get her out of here!” as I started to scream and cry. When the man had turned around to see me, I saw what had been making the noise. It was our beloved lamb. There was blood all over the place – the wash basin, the ground and on the two men who had done the sacrifice. In the middle was our lamb with it’s neck sliced open. Blood had covered a part of its body as well. I realized then that it was a lamb my parents had bought for Eid Al-Adha (Eid of the Sacrifice) which all Muslims celebrate with a sacrifice of a lamb 70 days after the end of Ramadan (annual season of fasting) and after sighting of a new moon according to a Lunar Calendar. Never had I given it any thought of the lamb that was to be sacrificed for our party meal.

lamb sacrifice

This is something still practiced all around the world by Muslims. Eid Al-Adha is the festival to remember Abraham’s obedience to God to sacrifice his son (we won’t argue which son it is right now…). It is a celebration that allows families to come together and give thanks to Allah. My parents still pay for a lamb to be sacrificed in Pakistan and the meat to be distributed to charity.

In the book of Revelation 5:6, there is a passage that says that “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” As we discussed what it must have looked like to have a lamb slain, I thought back to the bloody scene I witnessed.

We don’t like to think of the blood or the guts. We like things to be sanitary. We get our meat nicely packaged at the grocery store. Our streets are clean, our news is clean, our water comes out of the faucet clear, our clothes are clean and we have hand sanitizers in every location. It’s not considered polite to discuss the gory details of any event, especially dealing with blood.

I think that’s one of the things I have noticed most about living in the United States. While we lived in a nice home in Pakistan, we weren’t always guaranteed clean water out of the faucet. I remember being quite upset several times when I turned on the faucet for my bath and the water ran brown.

Our treatment of Jesus’s sacrifice should not be sanitized. We need to accept the fact that it was a bloody mess. That he suffered and he felt every bit of the pain on the Cross. As we look at Good Friday as the day that commemorates Jesus on the Cross, we need to remember that He was the lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8 and 1 Peter 1:20). Our Lord gave up every drop of blood for us. The least we can do is to acknowledge His sacrifice for us in the way it happened… not as a sanitized version of the cross, but a Cross full of God’s glory and His willingness to provide for us a spotless, sinless lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Amen.