I really need to learn how to say “no!” But one day, a sweet woman named Joan asked if I would consider sharing my testimony with a group of hers. I did what I normally do — jump in head first, without asking questions or details. I replied enthusiastically “Yes! I’d be honored to speak about what Jesus has done for me!” Then she told me that it would be two Tuesdays in a row (because the Bible study group was so big) and… it was in a prison.
Gulp! That meant, she explained, I would need special clearance, a background check, my driver’s license, wear certain clothes, etc. Honestly, I tuned out after she said “Prison.” A few weeks later, I thought maybe she forgot about it, but nope– she contacted me and happily said “all clear!” We could schedule out the dates. Tuesday 8/14 was the first half of the group and today 8/21 would be the second group.
I woke up and prayed, Lord, why did I agree to do this? I’m not an anxious person but my anxiety level was high. I had to think about what I could wear or not wear (can’t wear orange, gray, open toed shoes, certain jewelry, etc). A well meaning friend had told me NOT to hold hands with any inmate because some guy got his hand cut by a prisoner & had to be rushed to ER. All this was swirling around in my head.
As we reached the facility, I saw the fences & barbed wire and prayed”LORD, I have nothing in common with these people! Help me to say what you want me to say!”
The entrance was like what you see in the movies- double gates that clang shut behind you, guarded entry, X-ray of stuff you brought in. It freaked me out that the women who lead the Bible study brought pens… didn’t anyone watch mob movies where guys were stabbed in the neck with pens? Were they crazy?!
After passing through the entry, we were led into the prison yard. The sight was just as I’d imagined- rough looking women with orange jumpsuits and threatening guards on the perimeter.
As soon as we walked in, the women began to run towards Ruth (the beautiful older woman in the picture above), like sheep to a shepherd. She drew the women in close, covered their hands in a warm embrace and even gave hugs! Several women were already gathered in front of the chapel (can see it in the picture) and as Ruth and the women approached, they also broke out in smiles and surrounded us.
Incredibly, Ruth has led a Bible study there every single week for the last 27 years. No wonder she’s a beacon of light, love and comfort for the hurt and broken. Ruth and the other ladies introduced me to several of their friends and told me how the study was structured.
I can’t tell you how my talk went- I was interrupted so many times but the questions were all good and relevant. The women were warm and attentive. They listened to the Gospel being presented and were an encouragement to me (including an inmate named Sherrie who told me she loved me). That was totally unexpected. I shared about being disowned, about love, forgiveness and about being adopted into the family of Christ as a believer.
Turns out that I had more in common with them than I thought. You see, when you belong to Christ, you have family even in prison! They have been hurt, disowned, failed by others, and they tried to do things on their own. YET the Lord reaches out and adopts them into His family – just like He did for me.
Before I left, I gave out many hugs, several asked (today for the second group) if I could pray for them and one sweet woman named Candace re-dedicated her life to Christ. She told me through tears that she was raised in the church and even went on a mission trip. Then she decided to live for herself and ended up in prison. She said she realized today that she needed to repent and share the light of Christ with others who are in prison with her.
This is what Jesus does for us. His Holy Spirit breathes in new life and gives us eyes to see a world that is lost and hurting.
🙏🏽Thank you LORD for the gift of eternal life, love for others and a huge family- even behind bars. Thank you LORD for faithful women who teach your Word to outcasts of society, for taking me out of my comfort zone and for helping me to share your light with women. In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.
If you Google “Fear of Rejection,” you’ll find about 54,700,000 results in 0.42 seconds. It is a real fear – there are phobias named for this. As a people-pleaser, I know that it’s difficult for me to not be liked by everyone. When I was a child and had just moved to the United States, I was always the LAST ONE to be chosen for a team… I don’t blame them – I didn’t know how to play baseball or dodge-ball. Nobody wanted a “loser” to be on their team! Later, as a senior manager in a corporate setting, I would try to be on everyone’s team to gain their favor. I was told by my boss that it was ridiculous for me to please everyone. Going through life, the career advice I received was correct.
Rejection comes all the time and in many different ways. Our children suffer through it, we have strangers and friends who reject our ideas, plans or even dreams and even family members who don’t want to have anything to do with us. How do we handle this as adults? What’s behind all of this? Why are we not able to help our own children with the rejection they will face?
We are created as social beings, to have community with others and not be isolated. When we are rejected, it can cause a loss of self-confidence (maybe I’m not good enough, maybe I’m a failure, I smell bad, look weird, etc) – even depression. Psychologists say that at the heart of the fear is the avoidance of pain and suffering. So we try to cope with other ways of feeling good. Some turn to drugs and alcohol, while others live in a constant state of worry.
Where does your confidence and assurance come from?
Is it from other people? If so, be careful… they maybe as fearful or broken as you.
Is it from doing good works? If so, those can ring hollow after a while when no one else notices!
Is it from your career? Is it from money? Take a look and examine yourself.
The only thing that has changed my view on rejection, pain and suffering is CHRIST.
Christ suffered pain from scourging, beatings, and being nailed to the cross. His trauma on the cross brought about a new word in our language “excruciating”which means literally out of the cross (ex: out & cruc: cross). He is the only sinless person to ever live who had his blood poured out drop by drop for the salvation of sinful man. He felt pain until the last moment when he cried out in John 19:30 “It is finished.”
If you are a believer in Christ as your Lord and Savior, what are you worried about? He promised us that we would be rejected as he said in John 15: “17 This is My command to you: Love one another. 18Iftheworldhatesyou,understandthatit hated Mefirst. ” We are actually CALLED to suffer and be JOYFUL in the things we are dealing with! Why?
3And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
So… what’s your hang up? Why worry about being rejected and having to suffer. Christ suffered and if we are to reflect Christ as Christians, we should be ready with the knowledge that we will be rejected. We will be mocked as foolish. We will suffer… but we will overcome these things — not in our own power, but in the power of Christ who has defeated death, the ultimate enemy and has RISEN from the grave! Hallelujah!
What a reason to celebrate REJECTION!!!
May Christ be the ONE you turn to for your confidence and assurance. Amen.
I had the honor of doing a podcast yesterday for Anna Clement from Mission OKC . It’s called “A Former Muslim’s View of the Cross.” It’s a part of my testimony, but focuses on how the Cross of Christ is viewed by Muslims and what it means to me today.
A few highlights from the interview:
*Surah 4:157 says “And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.”
The Bible says: For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. ~ 1 Cor 1:18
I thought you might want to watch the video or listen to the podcast with Easter in mind!
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.”
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 this type of a declaration 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. I would not bring up Pigs, Apes or any animals for that matter! 🙂
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.
Let’s try to share the love ESPECIALLY since the Quran doesn’t have love to offer others.
Today, I was invited by my friend to attend a talk given by the Religion Department at Oklahoma City University. I welcomed the opportunity to be in the audience, given that I think we should have an open mind to see what the current Muslim conversation and views are in our community. The speakers were all from the University and were intended to present what it’s like to be a Muslim in America today.
Even though I was not speaking or on the panel (= not a Muslim), I had to pray that the Lord keep my mouth shut unless 3 conditions were met. I prayed “Lord, open my mouth only if 1) it glorifies you, 2) it glorifies your Son, and 3) it is wrapped in your love.” So, being equipped with prayer, I set off with my daughter (who had a fever yesterday and is fine today, but could not attend school due to 24 hr rule for fevers). Right when we got there, I realized I did not bring my notepad to take notes. So, digging into my purse, I found my Sephora coupon for a free mascara. After a moment of hesitation (free makeup!), I went ahead and wrote down notes from the speakers.
The first speaker was the Imam from the Greater OKC Mosque. He is the Assistant Professor and Chair in Islamic Studies Religion and hails from Palestine. Just a side note, he is also the Imam for the guy Alton Nolan who beheaded an innocent woman, Colleen Hufford in Moore, Oklahoma. The Imam started off talking about Islamophobia in the US
and asked why we couldn’t “coexist.” He cited examples of being harassed at the Muslim Day at the Capitol but nothing specific, other than saying that a Christian man from Kansas (how he knew he was Christian, I’m not sure) told him that he was “the devil.”
The other two speakers were less emphatic. The professor spoke about being victimized and using Muslims as doormats. He made political comments about the current presidency and also how he has been reading MLK Jr’s books about the Civil Rights Movement. He actually went as far as to say “the Civil Rights Movement is applicable now to the Muslim Community.” How? I find that to be a far reach. The African Americans at that time were facing serious oppression – separate bathrooms and eating areas, not being allowed seats on public transportation, etc. That is most definitely NOT what my family has faced as Muslims. He also said something that caught my attention. He said that Muslims needed to call for tolerance… really? Show me at least ONE Muslim nation that is “tolerant.” This is the reason why so many Muslims flock to the West – tolerance is here in the United States. You cannot find tolerance in the Sharia law that governs Muslim nations.
The young student they had on the panel was just darling and sweet in her replies. I told my husband afterwards that she reminded of me as a Muslim, telling everyone how wonderful Islam was. Her opening remarks were that she had not read the Quran and was not familiar with the writings, but she would share her experiences. She said that she had not felt any hate remarks aimed at her, even though she wears a hijab. She made it a big point to stress that she CHOSE to wear a hijab to cover and that no one was forcing her to do so. Her closing comment on Islam however, was naive and mistaken. She said that she wanted everyone to know that “Islam has the root word for peace and whenever we greet one another, we say ‘Salam’ which means peace be on you.” Unequivocally… not true. If you want to know, here’s an excerpt from the website Answering Islam:
“In order to find the meaning of a certain word in the Arabic dictionary, it is essential to search for the three letter infinitive verb which is called the root. Many words can be derived from the same root, but they don’t necessarily have to have any similarity in their meaning. The word Islam, which means ‘submission’, is derived from the infinitive Salama. So is the word Salam which means ‘peace’ and so is the verb Salima which means ‘to be saved or to escape from danger’. One of the derivations of the infinitive Salama means ‘the stinging of a snake’ or ‘The tanning of the leather’. Hence, if the word Islam has something to do with the word Salam i.e. ‘Peace’, does that also mean that it must be related to the ‘stinging of the snake’ or ‘tanning the leather’?
Muhammad used to send letters to the kings and leaders of the surrounding countries and tribes, inviting them to surrender to his authority and to believe in him as the messenger of Allah. He always ended his letters with the following two words: “Aslim, Taslam!”. Although these two words are derived from the same infinitive Salama which is the root of Salam, i.e. ‘Peace’, neither one of them implies the meaning of ‘peace’. The sentence means ‘surrender and you will be safe’, or in other words, ‘surrender or face death’. So where is the meaning of ‘Peace”In order to find the meaning of a certain word in the Arabic dictionary, it is essential to search for the three letter infinitive verb which is called the root. Many words can be derived from the same root, but they don’t necessarily have to have any similarity in their meaning. The word Islam, which means ‘submission’, is derived from the infinitive Salama. So is the word Salam which means ‘peace’ and so is the verb Salima which means ‘to be saved or to escape from danger’. One of the derivations of the infinitive Salama means ‘the stinging of a snake’ or ‘The tanning of the leather’. Hence, if the word Islam has something to do with the word Salam i.e. ‘Peace’, does that also mean that it must be related t’ in such a religion that threatens to kill other people if they don’t submit to it?”
Pastor Mateen Elass also wrote a great blog on the very topic of Islam not meaning Peace. You can find it here & I encourage you to check it out.
The question and answer session began with the question “All of you have been talking about how peaceful Islam is, but what about the violent passages in the Quran?” The Imam took that question right away and said there were NO passages in the Quran about violence at all! He continued to say that in fact, the Quran does not have words like “kill” or “kill the Infidels,” “convert or die, ” or even the word “sword.” The professor on his right picked up this theme from the Imam and said how Jihad was only to indicate a personal struggle and that all the students in his class were Jihadists because they struggled to get good grades. The Imam said that the media had bastardized and perverted what was written in the Quran… after all, it is interpretation that is the issue.
NO, NOT SO. We cannot continue to play the “it’s written only in Arabic, so we cannot truly understand the Quran unless you read it in Arabic.” “Kill” in Arabic pretty much means “kill” in English. This was a hard thing for someone who has been a Muslim as an adult and has read the Quran to swallow. I had to break down and whisper to my friend who invited me and tell her that was a blatant lie. There are over 164 passages in the Quran that are violent and deal with war, jihad (even though the word is not used, the intent to fight infidels is clear), or killing. It is not a story about peace and love… not even close. On average, one out of every six lines is about hell fire and damnation.
There is NO good news for Muslims.
Here is a list of over 109 passages in the Quran from a website called The Religion of Peace. Below is only ONE of these verses where you will find… drum roll please… “Kill, Killing, and Kill again” from Surah Al-Baqara (2:191-2):
And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.
It’s difficult to sit there and see what is being said in front of you without anyone in the audience to challenge it. Yet I knew that this was not a place for debate and I was so thankful for coming to the place prepared through prayer ahead of time. The woman who asked the question about violence in the Quran left early, so I could not catch up to her to talk – maybe it was not meant to be. The rest of the questions were very politically correct and were in the line of “why can’t we all just get along?”
The message from the Muslim community (including those in my family) is mixed. There are many who do not know what is in the Quran and those who DO know (like the Imam) are choosing to not tell the truth or even a part of the truth.
It is important to know and look things up for yourself. The Quran is available online and all you have to do is to Google “violent passages in the Quran” or something along those lines to see BOTH the Arabic and the English. Please don’t accept things at face value. God gave us a brain and he intends for us to use it. Let’s use our brains to His glory and know what is being said in the media and on this type of a panel.
The end was more of the same. The Imam made an ostentatious claim that we are all under one God. He said “Allah, Eloh, Ilah” are all the same (look up the name Ilah & you will find something totally different!). Again, not true. Allah is only one dimension. Our God as revealed by the Scriptures is YHWH. He exists in three dimensions. Unless you know the relationship of love that exists between God the Father, the redeeming love of Christ Jesus and the breath of the Holy Spirit, you miss the whole picture. Allah is not the God of the Trinity.
There is great confusion and darkness for those who do not know God as revealed in the Scriptures. I pray that the Church will wake up and heed the Great Commission to GO! As one who lived in the US as a Muslim, I was accustomed to the darkness. I blindly believed what the Imams said in the mosque and what my parents told me. When the scales fell from my eyes and I saw the truth of God as revealed in Christ, it was indescribable. There is great freedom and love in Christ Jesus. I just pray that we, as Christians will share the Gospel in love. We need to always be prepared to give a reason for the HOPE we have ~ 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… 1 Peter 3:15.
I beg you… Be ready! Be prepared! Give that reason for the hope you have in Christ. DO IT with gentleness and respect.This is what we need to share with Muslims today. Find a Muslim in your own backyard and share the Good News of the Gospel!
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.
Last weekend, I had the honor of being invited to speak on a panel of Believers of Muslim Backgrounds (BMB) for the Crescent Project National Conference in Houston, Texas. The conference had about 400+ people in attendance. Fouad Masri, founder was spoke on the first night about how Fear exists not only for Christians who believe the media about Muslims but also for the Muslims in the United States who believe the media about Christians. There is a desperate need for an AUTHENTIC Christian witness to all people.
The panel was both exciting and interesting. I want to walk you through the details. There were only two women (myself and the other woman to my left in the picture) and all others were men. The moderator, Fouad Masri, had us sit in a particular order by country from left to right – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, another from Iran, Morocco, and Palestine. I want to point out that there were many more Believers from Muslim Background at this conference, about 21 of them (but not all were on the panel). This is the most I have seen gathered in one location. When we were introduced according to country, the man from Iraq put his arm around the man from Iran. They said something amazing “Only Jesus can bring these two countries together like this – arm in arm.”
Each of us had the chance to briefly tell our story. There were several questions asked by the moderator, that included why we decided to follow Christ, what made us follow Him, what is the one point we want people to know about Muslims. If you don’t know my story, let me briefly share it with you. I wasn’t looking for Jesus. I wasn’t interested in following him. In fact, I was trying to become a better Muslim. My family is considered to be moderate Muslims or nominal Muslims. In other words, we were Muslim in name, not by practice. We did not pray 5 times a day nor did we uphold many of the pillars of faith.
After 9/11, I decided that I didn’t know much about what I believed, so I went into a deeper commitment to Islam. I started by reading the Quran (or Koran – different spellings can be found). The Quran brought questions for me – I didn’t have any questions about my faith, but just wanted to know more. The Quran actually was confusing and troubling in it’s treatment of women (Sura Al Nissa). It also contained a whole chapter on Jesus (Sura Maryam) that I didn’t understand – why did Jesus have so much power to do miracles like raise people from the dead? Why could he alone give life and heal?Through prayer, the Holy Spirit led me to a church where the associate pastor helped to connect the dots. This was not an overnight thing, but was a journey that took over a 3 and a half years. At the age of 35, I accepted Christ and was baptized along with my husband and 3 children! What a huge praise it is and I still thank God for His mercy and grace on our family.
Sometimes I think that people in the United States sell Christianity & themselves short. They think that Christianity is just a religion for “white people.” Revelation 7:9 says “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Christ didn’t come for just one group! He came as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) and for the world.
This was the most amazing part of this conference. To share the gospel of love with Muslims, you don’t have to go across the world (unless you want to) or to the Middle East (unless you want to). You simply can go to the local grocery store, University classroom, or restaurant. God has brought Muslims here to the United States. There are many who are lost, who need Christ’s message of hope and need an authentic witness in their life. What are you doing to help reach out to them?
God said “GO” in the Great Commission. Are you going? God said “LOVE” in his commandment to us (John 13:34). Are you loving others in the world or just the ones you are comfortable around? God said “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7). Are you fearful?
Today’s the day to change all that. Decide to live for Christ and watch what happens. A world of new relationships awaits… from every nation, tribe, people and tongue…
NY Times Photo for Sep. 10, 2016 -More than 3,000 Muslims gathered for prayer at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, Me., at the start of Eid al-Adha in 2015.Credit Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald, via Getty Images.
Eid al Adha is a Muslim celebration that is translated as the “Festival of Sacrifice” or “Bakr Eid” (Bakr means Lamb or Goat in Arabic). It falls on different days due to the Lunar Calendar. Once the new moon is sighted, the Festival is celebrated 10 days later. According to Al Jazeera, the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia stated that the New Moon did not fall until September 2, so they have declared Eid al Adha to be on September 12, 2016. However, if you look at the reports for the new moon (here, here and here), all show it to fall on September 1, 2016, making Eid al Adha today, September 11, 2016. Personally, I believe it was a political decision to move it to September 12.
Regardless of the day Eid al Adha falls upon, countries do celebrate it on different days. In my post titled “The Sacrifice of the Lamb,” I wrote about the significance of the sacrificial lamb and how Christ was described as the “lamb who was slain” (John 1:29 and Rev 5:6). Muslims celebrate Eid al Adha during the season of Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) and almost two million people are expected to journey this year to Saudi Arabia to perform one of the 5 pillars of faith in Islam. For most Muslims, Eid al Adha is marked with a sacrifice of a lamb or goat, which they eat, share and give to charity as a part of alms (another pillar of faith in Islam) and go to each others’ homes for parties and celebrations. For me, as a child, it meant dressing up in Eid clothes, getting Eidee (Eid money) and gifts from loved ones – it was kind of like Christmas, just without Christ or the tree or Santa.
I was reminded today by the date that it was the 15th anniversary of one of the most horrific days in the United States. September 11, 2001 is still etched in the minds of many Americans. In fact, I can remember exactly where I was when I heard the horrible news come through my car radio. I was in my minivan, driving to the shopping center on the corner of 2nd and Bryant. I was stopped at a red light and I heard about the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center building. Parking my car as quickly as I could, I listened to the rest of the news. I headed home immediately, abandoning my plans so I could get the news on the TV. It was gut-wrenching especially as the news began to pour in about Muslims behind the multiple attacks.
That day marked a turning point in my life. I just didn’t know it at that time how much it would shape my future. After 9/11, my phone began to ring off the hook. Since I teach Human Resources and Cultural Diversity, many organizations asked me to speak to them and help them to understand what it was like growing up in Muslim countries and what it was like to be a Muslim woman. 9/11, despite the grave losses, was financially beneficial to me. I had speaking engagements lined up for the rest of the year! 9/11 also launched me on the path to the decision to become a better Muslim and also to read the Quran cover to cover. I began that journey and it took me over 3-1/2 years to read the Quran.
The Quran is what led me to Christ. When I share my testimony, many ask me “what did someone say to you to make you believe?” or “what should I say to a Muslim person who might have been like you?” My journey was different. I did not have a SINGLE AUTHENTIC WITNESS who shared the true Gospel with me – none. Instead, God in His infinite mercy led me to Christ through the Surah Maryam (Mary – mother of Jesus) in the Quran. I could not reconcile the miracles and power of Christ with the teachings of Islam and Mohammad. I also realized through the Holy Spirit that I could not work my way into Heaven and that I needed God’s help.
I owe everything to Christ’s sacrifice as the lamb who was slain. Did you know that on Mount Moriah, Abraham gave up his son so that “God Himself would provide the lamb?” (Gen 22:8). Did you know that the Solomon’s Temple was built upon that very mountain? Did you know that JESUS CHRIST was crucified on Mount Moriah, fulfilling God’s promise of salvation through the blood of the only blameless, sinless lamb of God?
Gives you goosebumps, doesn’t it?
God is all-seeing, all-knowing. He is omniscient, omnipotent and worthy to be praised! So this day, please pray for Muslims who do not know the real reason behind Abraham’s sacrifice. Please pray for Muslims who are reading the Quran, trying to get to God through their own works and through meeting a checklist of the pillars of faith for Islam. Please pray for the families of the victims of 9/11, knowing that there are many more stories of lives impacted for the Kingdom through their deaths. Please pray for our country that we wake up to the only Way, Truth, and Life through Christ Jesus. Amen.
“Why can’t we all get along?” This is the cry I hear from people who want to talk about cultural diversity, religion, management or anything else I happen to be speaking. Many times it’s exactly these individuals who are the ones who don’t really want to get along with another. If there was an issue – maybe it’s them who was causing it? A better question to ask then is “What’s stopping you from getting along with someone else?” or “Why aren’t you getting along with others?” Of course, those are harder questions to ask and to have answered, so we end up speaking in generalities about groups instead of individuals.
This is the situation I found myself in last weekend. The issue proposed to me by someone close to me was “Why do you talk about sensitive matters? Why do you have to present a direct contrast between Islam and Christianity? Why do you have to blog about it and why do you have to address audiences about this?”
In my professional background in the realm of Human Resources, that’s all I deal with: sensitive matters. Human Resources professionals deal mainly with issues of employment, hiring, firing. With Diversity, matters of age, race, gender, ethnicity and religion are constantly being brought up by organizations. It’s what I am paid to talk about. I understand very clearly that it makes many people nervous and downright angry to talk about some of these things.
The media and our society today has done a great job defining what is okay to talk about and what is not okay. In my line of work, I deal with the fact that people cannot leave their religion behind while they work 9 to 5, nor can they ignore their age and any discrimination that may come with that or sex, or ethnicity. That’s the reason why I make it my life’s passion and work to talk about it, write about it and live it out.
I love talking about God. I don’t like or want to leave him in the car while I go to a meeting or discuss a subject matter at a corporate meeting or even at a public university. He is a large part of my story, my background, my calling to speak and also He influences every decision I make. I am not able to separate out my religion from my career or family. The person in question found this to be UNBELIEVABLE. I am not sure if she found it to be unbelievable that I place my trust in God for all these matters or that I will not stop talking about Him.
Political Correctness has done more harm than good. Dale Carnegie said “seek first to understand and then be understood.” Why then do we say we will just not talk about all the things that are protected by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), such as race, age gender, ethnicity & religion? We take the things of the workplace and apply them to our everyday life, missing opportunities to see how other people believe, how they live, what is their background and what makes up the content of their character.
It’s beautiful to be able to live in a country that allows for freedom of speech, of expression and of religion. We are able to have a mosque, a church, a Hindu temple and a Jewish temple in the same town – even on the same block! You do not find this type of diversity in many places. It’s a rich way to learn about others’ beliefs and to help them understand your own. The key is to approach one another with respect and not tell them to stop talking. Extinguishing dialogue will lead to darkness and misunderstanding – death of relationships. It does not allow people to freely share views and present a fresh, new way to approach century-old grudges.
Since we live in a free society, why should we not utilize these hard-won freedoms that someone else died for? Why should we stop the dialogue, pretend that culture, ethnicity and religion – differing opinions don’t exist? Why not take an opportunity to open your mind, open your heart, open your ears, and open your eyes to see the beauty of diversity that exists all around you?
May we be people who live in God’s light, sharing openly about His love, His light and the freedoms only He can bring in our life. May we share the good news of the Gospel to a hurting world that thinks this is the only reality there is.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” ~Ephesians 5: 8-11
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 worthlessREMEMBER: 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 failureREMEMBER: Phil 4:13 ~I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
I am unlovableREMEMBER: 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 guiltREMEMBER: 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 nothingREMEMBER: 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.