Some of you may know a part of my testimony. Others may have never heard.
September 11 was the day that moved me to find out what my faith in Islam was all about. The movement towards Islam meant that I started to read the Quran and tried to be a more faithful Muslim by praying five times a day and keeping my fasts.
I failed miserably on all counts.
I did not know grace or even what the word meant, even though I lived in the United States and spoke English. In the Quran, I came across Surah 19 – a chapter about Isa Masih (Jesus the Messiah). I could not reconcile the fact that this man was unlike any other men in the Quran. After praying to God with an open heart to tell me how to see the truth, God led me to a church. At this church, I heard the Gospel for the first time in 25 years of living in the United States.
In the Gospel, I heard about grace, forgiveness for my sins, mercy of God and a peace that passes all understanding through Christ Jesus’s work on the cross.
You see… it was never about me and my own works. It was all about God and His glory.
That’s why I write and that’s why I speak. All for God’s glory, revealed in Christ.
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.
I am SO excited to share the publishing of my new book “Reaching Muslims – A Christian’s Guide to Islam!” It was published this week by Gethsemane Press and is now available on Amazon.com, Kindle, B&N.com, and other major venues.
I’d love to invite you all to the Book Launch Party on FRIDAY, July 20 in Oklahoma City. I will be giving a short summary of the book and have discussion about the Frequently Asked Questions. Hope you will consider joining me to PRAY, Celebrate, and Fellowship.
Here’s a list of Chapters in the Book. In the next few weeks, I will also post a few excerpts!
History of Islam
Muslim Beliefs & Practices
– 5 Pillars of Faith
– 5 Beliefs of Islam
Traditions & Convictions
Women’s Role in Islam
Reaching Muslims through Evangelism
Common Objections to Christianity
About the Author
Appendix of Terms
Appendix of Answers
May the LORD bless this book for His Kingdom & Glory!
As a Human Resources Professional and a former Muslim, I get many questions about how to handle the limitations of Ramadan for Muslim employees. When I was working full time and tried to fast during Ramadan, it was next to impossible for me. There were doughnuts at the morning meetings, lunch meetings catered by my favorite restaurants, more lunch meetings with clients and dinner mixers. You could also forget trying to pray five times a day in the middle of these and other obligations as a senior level manager! Today with the increased awareness of the Diversity that exists, Muslims are not as ready as I was to quietly go through the day to fast or pray. Ramadan can present a challenge especially for Human Resources and employees that is confusing. Those outside the Muslim faith don’t quite understand the issues or the flexibility in a religion that looks quite inflexible on the outside. Some try to compare this to the Lenten season, but not all Christians practice fasting for Lent and even then, many Catholics give up meat on one day. Christian fasting is also different as there is no set day. Christians can fast anytime, however they like. It is a discipline to draw them closer to God – not to fulfill any religious obligations. Furthermore, Christian fasts do not make up any meals. If you give up a meal, it is gone.
I describe Ramadan fasting as a flipping of day with night. Meals are not eaten during the day (no water or liquids either). However, at night, you can eat or drink to your heart’s content. We would get up before sunrise and eat a breakfast. You can then eat again after sunset. It’s the daylight hours that present the challenge. I have written other blog posts on this topic: Ramadan Demystified and the Christian’s Guide to Ramadan.
So… what is an employer to do?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion (or lack of religious belief) in hiring, firing, or any other terms and conditions of employment. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says:
“In addition, the Act requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of applicants and employees, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operation of the employer’s business. A reasonable religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to practice his religion. Flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments lateral transfers, and exceptions to dress or grooming rules are examples of accommodating an employee’s religious beliefs.”
*”Undue Hardship” on Employer = costly, compromises safety, decreases efficiency, infringes on other employees’ rights or requires others to pick up their task of burdensome work.
*Undue hardship also may be shown if the request for an accommodation violates others’ job rights established through a collective bargaining agreement or seniority system.
*Prohibits religious harassment of employees, such as offensive remarks about a person’s religious beliefs or practices (hostile or offensive work environment) or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).
Of course, the EEOC guidelines are to be followed, but a good rule of thumb is to practice Diversity awareness and allow employees to openly have a conversation about what is Ramadan and why it is practiced – if they are willing. This way, it will not become a taboo topic where people are walking on eggshells or ignoring it. In addition, allowing a little flexibility in hours is not only kind but appreciated by all employees (granted in retail sales, call centers and manufacturing, that is more difficult to do).
The same kindness should also be shown to others who have differing religious beliefs- including Christians. I find now as a Christian, it is the flip side of the coin, where people are not willing to share their Christian faith for fear or repercussion – a man I know did not even feel he could put a cross in his office without being ridiculed. Religious accommodations can be made, but decisions should be made with respect to overall productivity and efficiency of the organization. If all employees on the team are willing to pitch in, then it will become a win-win for everyone – especially if others want to take a religious day off for their practice in the future.
Open dialogue, questions to reach an understanding and a willingness to help — these are all hallmarks of organizations that are open to diversity and create a culture of learning.
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”).
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) — so good that there are times we’re 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, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (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.
On Tuesday, I wrote about the fear of rejection and how tough that can be for children and adults alike. I was scheduled to speak twice that day- once at a place in OKC called Concordia (which went well) and later in the evening at the City Rescue Mission (which went not so well).
Last year, I shared my testimony at the City Rescue Mission, so after prayer, I felt that I should speak about something different. I settled on a topic that’s not so popular… that man is not “good.” Even David said in Psalm 51:5 that:
“5Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
After the fall of man, there’s not much that is “good” about human beings — the 20th century was the bloodiest century ever recorded in the history of man. YET, we are capable of good — for God is the only one who allows us to show good works in our life through fruit of the Spirit by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Within about 5 minutes of the talk, several women just walked out! At first, I faltered in my speech. As much as I speak, I am not used to people just walking out. I am used to people coming up afterwards to argue or tell me I’m wrong about something (that happened earlier in the day at Concordia, but the man was respectful in his disagreement). So, I stopped in the middle of my sentence and watched them get up and go out of the place. Within seconds, I smiled to myself and was amused because I remembered what I wrote about that very morning! 🙂 Talk about timing!
So, I took a deep breath and continued where I left off.
It’s funny when you get called out on the very thing you are telling others to practice in their life. As I mentioned in that blog – I am not immune from the feelings of rejection. It makes me sad and messes with my mind! I am also not writing this so you will feel sorry for me… instead, I am writing so you will know that public speaking – especially sharing the Gospel of Christ is no joke! I don’t take it lightly and I know that it can be irritating to many.
This is what was promised… so now go out there and live out the Great Commission (Matthew 28) to share the Gospel and yet, share the reason for your hope in Christ with gentleness & respect.
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
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!
I’ve had the chance now to speak at several book clubs around the OKC area. Each time, I’m asked about the writing process and why I became an author. When I reply that “I didn’t set out to become an author,” another conversation begins.
The truth is that I didn’t want to write a book. I didn’t know the first thing about writing (even though I am a Business Professor and grade writing papers each week), I didn’t know how to start a book or how the entire process worked. What I did have, however, was a compelling story that the Lord gave me. I have been speaking about this journey He’s taken me on for the last decade and each time, I was asked if there was a book available or in progress and each time, I said “no.”
I was afraid of writing a book as it seemed like a daunting process. The real reason behind me saying no was that I didn’t want the “author” label… seemed too pretentious and that it would go to my head. As a Christian who is in the spotlight as a speaker and corporate trainer, I get used to being the center of attention. All of that is not good for the HUGE head I get, contributing even further to me being prideful. I have to get up in the morning and pray that the Lord helps me to point to Him and not hog all the accolades that come my way. In other words, it’s not about me.
A few years ago in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), I had the chance to share my testimony with a group of leaders in an informal setting. The Teaching Leader, Paula, told me that I needed to write because “there’s a book in there!” She was very excited about the unique way the Holy Spirit had led me to Christ and encouraged me to write it all down. When I confessed to her about my pride issue, she asked in a straightforward way if I had confessed it and had repented. I jokingly told her that I tend to do that several times a day. She again encouraged me to write and said “if it’s God’s will, then the book will write itself.” There was truth in that…
So, I began to pray for several months before I even started any part of the process (again, no clue what the process was). I asked for the Lord to give me guidance, direction and make it clear if it was His will. I also decided that I would pray every morning and simply ask “Lord, do I write today?”
Each morning, I would get up and ask. Some days, it was very clear that I needed to write. Other days, nothing. On some days, I would sit down at the computer and write 10-15 pages! On other days, nothing. I even had a long stretch of about 3-1/2 months where there was nothing. I was around the 6th chapter in the book by then and it caused me great panic after about 2 months. I began to second-guess if I was even supposed to be writing.
Looking back, I think that was a part of praying and waiting in obedience, for shortly after that drought, it was as if the dam had broken. The rest of the book simply tumbled out in quick succession of chapters. Before the year was over, I had a book completed! I knew that I needed a cover that would encompass the story. I now began to pray for help with the second part – design. Again, the Lord answered very quickly! I woke up one morning and had the picture of the cover in my head. I knew that there was supposed to be a Quran on the cover – maybe in the background, soft-focus and there should be a picture of me somewhere as well, in my Pakistani outfit. By the end of the SAME DAY, I had my cover picture. In fact, I had about 5 different versions of the cover.
I am not a designer. I am pretty low-tech when it comes to using computer software. I couldn’t have told you how to design a book cover, much less make it so you could upload it and have it look half-way decent. YET, GOD can!
You see, when I was studying Moses’s life in Exodus 31, I came across a passage where God calls certain people by name to come and work on His ark of the covenant. He gives them the ability and talent to do what He asked them to do. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He does not change. He gives us each talents and abilities to use them for His glory.
Think about the verse in Philippians 4:13 that says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Do you truly believe that? Do you believe that Christ can help you in your circumstances, hard times, and even in times of doing things that are out of your comfort zone or talents? If you really believe that God can give you what you need, then please realize that it also means that He can also equip you for every good deed (Hebrews 13:21).
I was not an author, but I now have a book. I was not a designer, but the Lord gave me a clear vision of what the cover would look like and helped me to figure out how to do that within 24 hours. Maybe we should stop saying what we’re not and start looking at ourselves as God sees us – His children and His disciples.
I want to encourage you today to pray and pay attention to what the Lord might be asking you to do. Step out in that faith and watch what He does for your life!
Are you one for making resolutions for the new year? Then you reflect about half the population. Are you one for keeping them? Studies show that only about 8% of the people keep their resolutions. Why the staggering low amount of completion?
Turns out that self-help isn’t really all that helpful!
We make a resolution to exercise more and the first really cold day (again… January), we decide that it’s much better to be bundled up with a steaming cup of hot cocoa. We decide to spend less money, only to be confronted with after-Christmas sales. Yes, you guessed it – I’m talking about myself. It happened again today for lunch – here I was, making good choices about eating vegetables and saw that they had my favorite carb right by the veggies. Yup, my resolve crumbled right there just like that cookie facing me.
It’s not easy to do this alone.
The world tells you that “YOU can do it” and that “It’s all about YOU.” It tells you that only if you were more focused, you could achieve every goal. For some of you out there who are disciplined, you can do it… but again, we are talking about the 8%. The rest of us 92% fall miserably short of our goals.
There are goal-setting tools that can help you achieve a few more of those goals and the self-help section in the bookstore is always the largest. But what if I told you that you weren’t meant to do it alone? What if I told you that if you were to have someone alongside of you, that the resolutions and goals would have a better percentage?
It’s called ACCOUNTABILITY.
We need that at work, for our diets, for exercise and most of all, for our Christian walk. We were meant to work together with others who will help us, encourage us (take a look at 1 Thes 5:11) and also cry with us when we mess up. It’s wonderful to have someone to share things with. The statistics back up my claim. The Association for Training & Development did a study where they found that sharing the goal with even one person increased the odds of goal completion by 95%!
So this year, don’t do things by yourself. Enlist the help of others. It will keep you accountable and humble!
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. ~ Proverbs 27:17