Ramadan 2018: Demystified for Christians

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image by: crossroads on a mission

Well… it’s that time of the year again. No, not Mother’s Day, not graduation, not Father’s Day but RAMADAN! Millions of Muslims all over the world celebrate this time within their communities, leaving the rest of the world wondering what the fuss is all about.

Most Muslims will tell you that Ramadan is “Fasting” and is one of the five pillars of Islamic beliefs. The truth of the matter is that Ramadan includes FEASTING! Many don’t realize that the fasting Muslims do during Ramadan is only during the daylight hours. The feasting lasts all night long with parties and food galore. There is a sense of jubilant celebration that you made it through yet another day of not eating or drinking.

When Christians think of fasting, they believe in not eating or drinking for the day and night. There is no “make-up” of the meals missed. In Islam, only the day and the night are switched! The fasting looks to be severe to the rest of the world because they are working and abstain from drinking water. Some Muslims cautioned me that I should not be brushing my teeth during Ramadan because technically, I would be introducing toothpaste and water into my mouth (not allowed). I was told to “dry brush” – of course, being a teenager at that time, I was appalled at that suggestion and chose to ignore it.

Shariah law dictates what a Muslim can and cannot do during Ramadan. There is great detail of who can fast (that means anyone seven years or older – including that a child of ten is beaten if not fasting), and who cannot – a woman on her period cannot fast, an insane person cannot fast, etc. The rules state that fasting during Ramadan involves abstinence from drink and food, sexual intercourse, smoking, anything that punctures the body like an injection, swallowing mucus and a long list of items (see link) that is permissible or not to a Muslim (including something called “cupping” where heated glass or a heated horn of an animal used to be put to the skin to draw blood like a suction in order to restore energy) from the dawn to the moment when a black thread is indistinguishable from a white one outside. That is the signal that the feasting time can begin and the fast is broken (called “Iftar” or “Iftari”).

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My own copy of the Sharia Law Book = last summer’s reading ūüė¶

When I was a Muslim,¬† I didn’t keep many fasts. The most I kept were when we lived in Muslim countries. When we moved to the United States, our Muslim community used to fast together, so I wanted to join them. There was a great number of gatherings in people’s homes for the break of the fast – especially the first day. There is an intense suspenseful time of waiting right before the evening meal can be eaten – everyone’s eyes are on the clock, watching seconds tick by. We, the children were in a frenzy of anticipation and many Muslims drive like maniacs on the streets as they go racing home to their meals. Our kitchen counter would be piled high with food, tea and a sweetened drink called Rooh Afza. Dates and water would be set aside as that is the traditional way to break the fast.¬† When the time came or the muezzin’s call was heard from the mosque, there was chaos as the meal began with everyone grabbing dishes with their hands. When appetites were finally sated, our friends and family used to head for the couch to take a nap or to play cards or board games together. Again, fasting during Ramadan is simply a checklist. There was not much spiritual introspection for it, other than some who read the Quran during this month.

Christian fasting is different. The fast is not required or mandatory. It is a self-discipline that is revealed through prayer. Its intended to change the person who is fasting — not to change anyone else or (God forbid!) to change God’s mind. It is simply to quell an internal struggle one may be having with a number of things (anger, grief, lack of forgiveness, etc). Passions are not an issue for Islam. Fasting does not get rid of any of them, it only forbids them in the daylight hours. You can indulge in smoking, sex, and gorging on food or whatever you want at night. It is not a basis of righteousness nor is it about getting right with God. Again, it is simply a checklist to fulfill one of the pillars.

 

Christians might be surprised to learn that the Bible talks about fasting at least 77 times! Here is a wonderful article from Ligonier Ministry’s Donald Whitney called “The Discipline of Fasting.” He states that “But Christians are free to experience the blessings of fasting as often as they desire. Fasting expresses in a God-ordained way our belief that we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8) ‚ÄĒ so good that there are times we‚Äôre satisfied to feast on Him instead of the food that the Lord made for us to live on. Fasting is a temporary physical demonstration that we believe the truth declared by the gospel, namely that, ‚ÄúMan shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God‚ÄĚ (Matt. 4:4). Do you believe that? Do you¬†fast?”

We need to share the Gospel with others who are bound by checklists and obligations. We have such a beautiful freedom in Christ that we are able to fast if we wish to or not fast if we don’t. There are many ways to fast and to become closer to the Lord. Let’s start by prayer during Ramadan for our Muslim friends and neighbors. Maybe this period of time will allow you to consider fasting in order to share the Gospel with others who have not heard about the Way, the Truth, and the Life that comes only through Christ (John 14:6). Amen.

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Fear of Rejection

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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.

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Passion of the 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. 18If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. ” We are actually CALLED to suffer and be JOYFUL in the things we are dealing with! Why? 

Romans 5:3-5 answers this:

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.

No Peace

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NY Times Photo – Nigerian Mosque Nov. 21, 2017

The self-proclaimed religion of peace is busy committing atrocities in the name of Allah. The latest bombing of the Mubi mosque in Nigeria has claimed over 300 souls. The president and others have named the radical Muslim extremist group, Boko Haram for the murders. This is a militant Islamic group that leaves chaos in their wake throughout Nigeria and neighboring countries, displacing over 2 million people by burning villages and attacking towns, camps and other mosques.

The New York Times reported that “Mr. Abubakar, the police spokesman, said the assailant was a male teenager. He said the attacker had walked into the mosque and joined the worshipers crowded inside the small room.” Poor child who was sacrificed in the way of jihad. Poor families who lost their loved ones that day. We grieve for them and those who know no peace.

In a season that hails the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, there is only chaos in the Muslim world. There are extremists who are fighting in a religious struggle against whoever gets in their way — kill or be killed. Christ did not teach the way of the world. In fact, He taught in Matthew 5:5 the OPPOSITE by saying “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”

Being meek is not popular with the world. You don’t really see many T-Shirts with a catchy slogan about being “meek.” When I was a Muslim, I used to laugh at the Christians who (I thought) held hands and sang together. What nonsense! My belief was go out there and get what you deserve – you should demand it in a big, loud voice. If you don’t get whatever you are after, then beg, borrow and steal to get it. It’s every man (and woman) for themselves.

This is what Islam teaches… “It’s all about YOU, babe.” You are responsible for your own salvation. No one is going to come and save you. YOUR works, YOUR efforts, YOUR good deeds. Do extra credit good deeds, pray extra ~ the more you rack up, the better it will be for you on judgment day and even then, you have no guarantee of getting into Paradise.

Then, one glorious day, I came to find out the TRUTH about Christ Jesus.

It is not about YOU. It’s about what Christ did for us on the cross. It’s about His perfect, sinless life and perfect death of obedience on the cross for our sins. It’s about His efforts and His conquering of death in His resurrection. No one else has ever done that. Ever.

Only Christ.

Only His Death.

Only His Resurrection.

Only His Peace… so we sing:

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

~(lyrics to Hark the Herald Angels Sing)

May we pray for the families who lost their loved ones. May we pray for Muslims everywhere who don’t know peace and don’t know the Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus. May His peace reign forever and ever.

Amen.

BRAVE

by BRAVERY (1)

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

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

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

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

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

 

Do Muslims & Christians Pray to the Same God?

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Katarina Church & Stockholm Mosque in Sweden

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

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

What’s wrong with that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Repeated 16-48 times by every Muslim during the day

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

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

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

Amen and Amen…

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

Manchester – Islamophobia or Jihad?

 

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Photo: Daily Express – Getty Images

“Muslims are being spit upon and the number of verbal attacks are increasing.”

“The terrorists don’t represent what Islam teaches.”

“We cannot blame this attack on the entire Muslim community.”

These are the types of things that are now being reported all over the internet. The comments are cliche and don’t leave the Manchester or other communities (like New York) that have been threatened over the last week. It brings to mind the bombing of the night club in Orlando. Westerners who don’t understand Islam are asking “Why did this happen and what can we do about this?”

What the Muslim community does not tell the public is simple. Jihad is the only 100% way to get to heaven according to Islam. ¬†Jihad means “to strive or struggle.” Muslims will tell you that it does not mean “Holy War” but refers to an internal struggle, but that is NOT what Islamic teaching says. Let me start at the beginning.

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The Guardian: Muslim Leaders concerned about Islamophobia in Manchester

For Islam, there are two worlds: Dar al Islam (Arabic:House of Islam) and ¬†Dar al Harb (Arabic: House of War). If you don’t belong to the House of Islam… you automatically belong to the House of War. The Quran (Surah Al-An’am 6:127 and Surah Yunus 10:25) goes further to call the House of Islam the House of Peace (versus war). This is where Muslims have publicized that they follow a religion of peace. It is peaceful as long as you follow the laws of Islam within the House of Islam. If you do not follow the rules and law of Islam (Sharia), there is no peace for you because you belong to the world of the infidel or Kafir (literally one who rejects Islam). ¬†Muslims will not tell you that there is most definitely war. Many Friday prayers at the local mosque will remind Muslims weekly that they are all united in war against the infidels.

For the Muslim, there is a checklist to follow in order to be a good Muslim and fulfill their faith requirements. These are called the Five Pillars of Faith. I have written about these in a previous blog. For the average, cultural Muslim. These are very difficult to achieve on a daily basis. I know – I tried and failed miserably when I was a Muslim, both as a teenager and as an adult. I simply could not get it right. There are many Muslims who feel this way. Their works cannot justify them, so they count on Allah’s mercy to get them to Heaven. There is no assurance for ANY MUSLIM that they will get to Heaven. Allah (through angels on your shoulder) is keeping an account daily of their good and bad deeds. Furthermore, Muslims believe that Allah can change his mind. Even if you’ve been a “good Muslim,” Allah can change his mind at the last minute and deny you entrance into Paradise.

Here enters JIHAD… the shining knight that can save a Muslim from all his or her troubles. Jihad is the only 100% guaranteed way to get into Paradise for a Muslim.

Here’s excellent information (supported with research) from the website Answering Islam:

9:33 It is He Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth, to make it superior over all religions, though the Mushrik√Ľn (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) hate (it). (Hilali and Khan, The Noble Qur‚Äôan, Riyadh: Darussalam, 1996, 2002; parenthetical notes are theirs).

This verse is repeated two more times, word for word, in Suras 61:9 and 48:28. Muhammad means business.

The Arabic word for “to make it superior” comes from the root z-h-r, which means “to become distinct, obvious, conspicuous, or manifest; to ascend or to mount; to have the upper hand.” It can also mean “triumph” or “victorious” or “prevail.”

Seekers and the curious about Islam must understand this brute fact as they read the Quran: in the ten years that Muhammad lived in Medina (AD 622-632), he either sent out or went out on seventy-four small assassination hit squads, raids, expeditions, small battles, or full-scale wars like the Tabuk Crusade in AD 630, in which Muhammad led 30,000 soldiers north to invade the Byzantine empire. Sometimes the conflicts did not end in violence, but too many times they did. All verses (and there are not many) in the Medinan suras that seem to speak of peace and tolerance must be read in light of this violent historical context. Not far from the few tolerant verses the reader will find intolerant and violent verses.

Sura 9:33, simply put, predicts the conquest of Islam over all religions. Islam must dominate the world through jihad.

9:29 Fight [q-t-l] against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Hilali and Khan)

What happens to martyrs in jihad?

Martyrs are guaranteed a fast track to Islamic paradise. Their deaths are depicted in economic terms. If they expend their lives as a living currency, Allah will exchange them for heavenly Islamic gardens.

61:10 You who believe, shall I show you a bargain that will save you from painful punishment? 11 Have faith in God and His Messenger and struggle [j-h-d] for His cause with your possessions and your persons‚ÄĒthat is better for you, if only you knew‚ÄĒ12 and He will forgive your sins, admit you into Gardens graced with flowing streams, into pleasant dwellings in the Gardens of Eternity. That is the supreme triumph. (Haleem)

Muslims who struggle (j-h-d) in Allah’s cause will either win the battle and live to see another day, so that they can collect some spoils of war, or they will die and have their sins forgiven and be admitted into Islamic heaven.

Sura 9:111 carries on the economic bargain.

9:111 God has purchased the persons and possessions of the believers for the Garden‚ÄĒthey fight [q-t-l] in God‚Äôs way: they kill [q-t-l] and are killed [q-t-l]‚ÄĒthis is a true promise given by Him in the Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur‚Äôan. Who could be more faithful to his promise than God? So be happy with the bargain you have made: that is the supreme triumph. (Haleem)

Two things should be noticed here. First, the root q-t-l is used three times in this short verse. Qital or qatala, as noted in the section “What are some rules of jihad?” means killing, warring, and slaughtering and is therefore less ambiguous or has a more restricted meaning than jihad, though this latter word can mean those same bloody acts.

Okay… so, Martyrs who fight in Jihad get the equivalent of the Disney Fast Pass to Paradise. What’s waiting for them? Men get it all! They get a place of extreme physical pleasure with 72 eternal virgins (Houris), wine, food, etc. Women simply get a couch by rivers of milk and honey… oh wait, they also get the same husband they had on earth (whether they want him or not).

Getting back to the Manchester situation. It is an ATROCITY. Is this what England gets for agreeing to have Sharia-enforced areas in their country? They have been bending over backwards to allow Muslim demands to filter into their schools, politics and courts. When a terrorist strikes in the name of Allah, please understand that this truly is what Islam teaches.

Quran Surah 8:12 Then your Lord spoke to His angels and said, “I will be with you. Give strength to the believers. I will send terror into the Kafirs’ hearts, cut off their heads and even the tips of their finger

What Islam teaches and what many Muslims believe may be two different things ONLY because over 80% of the Muslim world cannot read Arabic and the Quranic teachings are in Arabic. They are ignorant of what the teachings are, so you will find Muslims who say “Oh, this is not what I believe.” In order to be a true Muslim, you HAVE TO BELIEVE 100% of your book. If this is not what you believe as a Muslim, then according to your own religion, you are not a Muslim (Quran Surah Al-Baqarah 2:208 & Quran Surah Ali ‘Imran 3:7). In Quran Surah As-Sajda (32:22) it goes further to say –

“And who is more unjust than one who is reminded of the verses of his Lord; then he turns away from them? Indeed We, from the criminals, will take retribution.”

So, if you are a Muslim who questions Quranic verses or worse turns away (like I did = apostate), there will be retribution, for I am a criminal in Islam’s eyes.

This is your religion of peace. This is why people fear Islam for what it is and what it tells Muslims to do in order to behave. This is not a “phobia” (which is defined as “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.”). This is not IRRATIONAL, but is a RATIONAL, logical fear people have. As long as we make excuses as a nation and remain politically correct about what Islam is and what it teaches, we will remain in the dark.

Let LIGHT and TRUTH shine in!

The Bible in Ephesians 6:12-14 says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world‚Äôs darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.¬†Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that¬†when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand.¬†Stand firm then, with the belt of truth fastened around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness arrayed‚Ķ”

As Christians, we do not fight the Muslim people. We fight against the spiritual forces that do not tell the truth and take evil actions against innocents. We need to join together in prayer and share the Gospel of Christ in love. We do not need to take it upon ourselves to retaliate in anger, but to wrap ourselves in the truth of Christ’s teachings. To pray for your enemy and¬†¬†to answer evil with love.

If you have any questions about what I wrote – contact me. I am happy to answer or find the answer for you. The Lord gave you an incredible mind. Don’t take statements like “Islam is peace” or “Terrorists don’t represent Islam’s teachings” at face value. Question it. Research it. May the Lord shine His beautiful light into your life.

Why Did God Do This?

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Yesterday, a Christian friend told me that she had a co-worker who asked her “Why did God do this?” in regard to the horrendous story about the two year old child who was dragged away to death by an alligator at Disney World. Personally, I wouldn’t have stopped there if I was the co-worker. You can apply that question to all the horrific things that happen in this world – why is there murder, rape, sex trafficking, etc., however underneath that first question are a few underlying assumptions:

  1. God exists.
  2. He doesn’t care.
  3. He actually was the perpetrator of the acts.

My Eastern mind answered her with the assumptions first: Why does this co-worker believe she is above God Almighty in that she can sit in the Judgment seat to question, prosecute, and judge God as guilty – all in one question? This is a very Eastern way of thinking… who are you to condemn God or even ask Him that question? Yet, God being accessible to us in the person of Christ allows us to at least place these questions before Him.

So, let’s take this a few steps at a time. First of all, the answer for all this lies in¬†the way that God has chosen to speak to us = the Bible. The very first chapter of Genesis addresses the answer, which is Original¬†Sin. It starts at the Garden of Eden where man was given free will and death entered into God’s creation plan (that up to that point He had deemed to be good). When Adam & Even chose wrongly, all of creation fell into the curse – the curse is the result of not doing what God had laid out for them to do. He had only given them ONE rule to not break and guess what? That’s the one that got broken. This is the reason for the breakdown we see all around us. From the alligator to the Orlando shootings and the tragic loss of lives. There is so much sadness around us, it’s sometimes hard for me to think.

If the person sees that what happened is wrong and sinful, then we can start there as Christians. We believe that there is an absolute standard for wrong and right. That standard does not come from man – if it did, then many would say that what the Orlando shooter did was right. Taking life for any reason is wrong. This is a standard God put into action a long time ago with the Ten Commandments (see Commandment 6 as listed in Exodus 20:13). ALL human beings are created in the image of God and only God has written when it will be the end of their days. That life¬†does not belong to man to take away.¬†If there is a right and wrong and God put that into motion, then these acts occurred either as a part of a fallen, broken world (as in the case of the alligator) or due to man’s free choice to ignore what the Lord has put into place.

God’s original design for mankind and the world was to live in communion with Him. He created everything (Genesis) and called it “Good.” Man’s disobedience is not a one time thing. Man continues to run away from the call of God to return to Him and His decrees, causing more hurt, sin and violence. You don’t even have to go far in the Bible to see this happening! An animal had to be killed to clothe Adam and Even after the Fall “21And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”(Genesis 3:21). Cain commits the first murder of his own brother Abel within a few chapters of the Fall. Just 11 verses later, the first murder takes place ¬†when Cain kills his own brother Abel out of jealousy (Genesis 4:8). The intentions of man’s heart are evil. Without God, only our own selfish desires rule.

Don’t forget for one minute that the Orlando shooter claimed to be from ISIS and did this act during Ramadan. We visited a Muslim restaurant just today for lunch and I asked the woman (whom I knew to be fasting) how she was faring since she worked around food all day and was required to fast. She told me that this Ramadan season had been exceptionally difficult and that she was not fasting today. She would rather not fast than to keep a fast and break it (= higher sin penalty). ¬†A few weeks ago, I wrote about the¬†fasting and the checklists¬†one has to fulfill to be a good, devout Muslim and how many¬†fall short of this exacting standard set by Islam. I personally believe that there was a desperation the shooter must have felt from the Muslim standards that increased his drive to do this heinous act.

When we believe that we are the ones in control of our lives and we try to work our way to Heaven, we will miserably fail. This is the reason why we need a Savior.

Jesus Christ did not condone any of these acts. God did not will for the two year old child to die. He did not want the suffering caused by the horrific act of one man who took the lives of many in Orlando. In fact, I believe that Jesus Wept (John 11:35). There is a blog entry done by Vince Vitale¬†at RZIM that addresses this in a beautiful way, titled “Tears for Orlando.” Jesus came to earth to take on the burden we all bear and take our sins at the cross as his own. He is the ONE who was blameless and without sin (in fact, the Quran also says that Jesus was the only one without sin – see Surah 19:19 in Chapter for Maryam – Mary).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Please join me in praying for all the families affected by the devastating events that took place in Orlando this week. May we, as Christians extend the LOVE God has instead of judgment and blame.

 

Fasting

A Palestinian man hangs decorations at the entrance to the compound of The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Old City
Saudi Declares Monday as first day of Ramadan¬†– A Palestinian man hangs decorations at the entrance to the compound of The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Old City, June 4, 2016. REUTERS/ Ammar Awad

I was a horrible Muslim. I grew up in countries where everyone fasted, yet I never kept a fast until I was a teenager in high school. I take that back – I tired fasting around 5th grade because we had moved to the US and our neighbors were very good at fasting. Not wanting to be shown up by a boy my age, I thought I would also fast. I had such a horrible attitude about it all, I had to end the fast in a shameful way. I ate lunch. I couldn’t even make it past the afternoon.

In High School, at least I was doing it for better reasons. I knew that fasting was supposed to get you closer to submitting to God’s will for you (now why you had to not eat or drink to do this, I still didn’t understand). This was a much better approach than jealous competition with our¬†sweet and kind neighbor family.

I still didn’t do very well as a teenager in fasting. I would try to stay up all night to eat and then would conk out close to sunrise. I would even miss the early morning prayer (which is a no-no) because I stayed up too late and now no one could wake me up, including my alarm. My mom was kind to me during this time and allowed me to stay asleep as I always rationalized that I could make up the missed prayer time in the morning or do extra credit prayers later on. Again, not a great way to embark on any religious philosophy.

As an adult after 9/11, I tried to become a better Muslim than I had ever been. I was reading the Quran, trying to pray five times a day around my work schedule and also trying to fast. I did better – I was able to fast for about a week before the horrible migraines took me down. There is a special dispensation for medical disabilities and I reasoned with Allah that since He was merciful to me, that He would exempt me from this one pillar of faith.

Islam has FIVE pillars of faith. One must do each one of them (only Hajj РPilgrimage to Mecca is done once in a lifetime. Others must be done every day or every season!). 5-five-pillars-of-islamThese are absolutes, so missing one of these is kind of an issue because you are not fulfilling requirements of being a practicing Muslim. Ramadan is sacred because Muslims believe that the Quran was revealed during that month. It varies in date year to year because the lunar calendar is used to mark the ninth month РRamadan.

I believed all the other items in the checklist. I said the Shahadah, I tried my best to pray (not all my life, mind you! I don’t want you to think I was an awesome Muslim – hence the first line of this blog!), we gave Zakat, or charity and my parents were kind enough to take us to Mecca when we were little for Hajj. The problem is that even missing one requirement does not get you to Heaven! If you are missing a pillar or two, it is sinful and you will be punished by Allah, for you are then like a building without a foundation or a roof without a supporting pillar.

The Season of Ramadan starts tomorrow morning June 6, 2016 at Sunrise. This means that over 1.5 billion (good) Muslims will be eating and drinking tonight, but fasting tomorrow and for the next 30 days.

When I became a follower of Christ Jesus, I wanted to know my requirements or obligations. I was shocked that there wasn’t a checklist to complete or clear-cut directions on what to do. I had to repent of my sins and acknowledge the fact that I needed a Savior (because I could not pay for my sins by myself), I had to confess with my mouth that Jesus was Lord and Savior and I had to believe in my heart that he died on the cross and was raised from the dead. Romans 10:9 says “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

As I began to study the Bible, I found that there was no list that needed to be checked off.¬† Religious fasting is a duty required of the disciples of Christ, but not as a requirement or obligation. ¬†Fasting is the humbling of the soul, Ps 35:13; that is the inside of the duty; let that, therefore, be thy principal care, and as to the outside of it, covet not to let it be seen. God sees in secret, and will reward openly. In contrast to what I witnessed in the Muslim countries as people trying to fast in competition or worse, shaming others who were not fasting (because they had “medically exempted” headaches, for example, not that I was embarrassed about this or anything!), Matthew 6:18 says “that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Psalm 35:12-14 takes it a step further with David who fasts for his enemies’ health! What is that about? I was shocked to see that fasting took on a different meaning and that had everything to do with the condition of the heart and also the desire to commune with God.

“They repay me evil for good, To the bereavement of my soul. 13But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting,And my prayer kept returning to my bosom. 14I went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother.‚Ķ” ~Psalm 35:12-14

As Christians, we do not have to fast but we should pray to seek God’s will if there is something going on in our lives that needs change. Fasting will not change the other person or their circumstances – instead, fasting is to help us draw closer to God and to hear His will for our lives. I also want to point out a stark contrast here. Fasting for the Muslim world means exchanging DAYS for NIGHTS. It is not a complete abstaining from food or drink for 30 days. Some people are shocked that humans are able to completely give up food or drink – not the case. In addition to not eating or drinking during the daylight hours, Muslims are to try to keep from thinking bad thoughts, smoking, cursing, or having marital relations.

Fasting for the Christian is to humble yourself before the Lord, to reveal things in your life that are broken, need healing or spiritual transformation that only the Holy Spirit can bring. It can help one to recognize and repent unconfessed sin. It’s not magic, it won’t fix other people, but it can help you grow in your spiritual walk with Christ.

As we pray for others, may we remember to pray for the Muslim world to know the love of Christ Jesus who fulfilled all obligations for us and completed all checklists, took our judgment and paid the price of our sins for all mankind with his death on the cross. May they learn about the resurrection power over death that is found only in Jesus. Amen.

Identity

id-card

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.‚Ķ” 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.

 

 

A Song in the Desert

nativity

December in Saudi Arabia is like any other month. It does not stand apart, nor does it boast any major holidays. The only time of reverence for our Muslim family was during the months of Ramadan (usually in the summer) and then our favorite times of the year ‚Äď celebrating Eid (either Eid al Adha [festival of the Sacrifice] or Eid al Fitr [festival of the breaking of fast or lesser Eid]). Neither of these events took place in December, so I was confused when my parents informed us that we needed to wear our nicest long dresses for a big party.

My father was a telecommunications engineer for the Saudi Telecom Company and my mother was a physician who was ahead of her time (female physician in Saudi Arabia in the 1970’s). My older sister and I were the only two children and we were very young. My sister was around 8-9 and I was 3-4 years old at the time. We had been raised in Saudi Arabia all our lives and were quite used to the desert and the call to prayer five times a day. Our lives rotated around the prayer call, along with the Muslim calendar.

Our whole family got dressed up in our fancy clothes and went to the Taif Intercontinental Hotel where  there was a special Christmas party that included several Diplomats from the British and American Embassy. I had never been to a Christmas party before. I really didn’t have a clue what Christmas was, except for what I had read in my Richie Rich and Archie comic books.

As the party got underway, the American band wanted people to sing Christmas Carols. Being in a Muslim nation, surrounded mostly by older people & Saudis, they were not getting any takers. My parents had given us a small electronic piano that had several auto-song tunes. Two of those were Christmas songs (I knew that, because the song book said they were) ‚Äď Jingle Bells & Silent Night (only the first stanza, mind you!). At the urging of our parents, we got up to sing Jingle Bells. After rousing applause, we were asked to sing again. So we went to the only other song we knew: Silent Night.

Can you imagine the room? Can you imagine two little Muslim girls, singing about our precious Savior‚Äôs birth in the heartland of Islam? God had a marvelous way of forecasting His plans for me that evening. Little did I know that 31 years down the road, He would place a call into my life that could not be ignored or reasoned away. He not only moves in the lives of Muslims, but He places His divine truth upon all of our hearts in marvelous ways ‚Äď yes, even through a song on a toy piano.

Now that I am a Christian, I know all the verses to Silent Night. May we raise our voices to God’s way, truth and light in Christ Jesus, our Lord & Savior. Amen.

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light,
Radiant beams from
Thy holy face, with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.
Silent night, holy night, wondrous star, lend thy light;
With the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King.
Christ the Saviour is born,
Christ the Saviour is born.