Quran: Jews & Christians are “Apes & Pigs”

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

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

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

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

and

Surah Al A’raf 7:166:

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

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

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

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

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

I can answer that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Needs or Wants?

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JESUS HOUSE OKC

This morning, we went with a group of friends to tour the JESUS HOUSE with Director, Mike Bateman. As we walked through to get a better understanding of what they do there and how we could serve, we were collectively struck with how much HOPE there was with the residents. The Jesus House is not just a homeless shelter. They offer much more than just a roof over people’s heads – they offer the HOPE of Jesus and loving people to support with a true spiritual transformation.

Wherever we went, Mike asked the residents to stop and share their personal story if they were willing. Not only were they willing, but one gentleman stopped as he walked by, joined the group while another was sharing his testimony and then shared his as well. The stories had a common thread: life was not what it promised, family broke down, drugs and alcohol took over, had no hope.

After we finished the tour, the group stood in the parking lot to pray together and discuss areas we might be called to help. There were so many needs that it was easy to get bogged down into analysis paralysis and risk doing nothing. So, we decided to serve and take on most urgent needs of the Jesus House first (by the way, they need socks & underwear for adult men & women if you want to help!).

I asked a gentleman in the group what he thought about the tour. He responded by saying that he felt a bit guilty about all he had, when these people had so little. This is one of the things that I have noticed in my own life. We can get easily bogged down with two words: NEEDS and WANTS. It seems like our wants can easily turn into needs without us even noticing. For example, my son wants the newest iPhone. Just yesterday, he said he needed a new phone. My answer to him was that he didn’t need a new phone, in fact, he didn’t need a phone at all (which quickly ended the discussion on his part). It’s true… apart from using the phone when he is driving & is in emergency situations, he doesn’t really need a phone – especially since all his friends have one anyway and he could use one of their phones.

Before I get too harsh about my son’s perceived needs, I should address my own as well. I don’t really need anything at all. God has provided what we need and more. We have been blessed beyond the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, clothes. Why then is there such a desire that grows in our hearts for more, more, better, faster?

According to the US Census (2014), the average median income for a family in the United States is $52, 250. Business Insider did some calculations and found out what you needed to make in order to see if you were middle class or not per State (in Oklahoma, it was under the median at $45,690). Pew Research found that “the income groups are defined as follows: The poor live on $2 or less daily, low income on $2.01-10, middle income on $10.01-20, upper-middle income on $20.01-50, and high income on more than $50” – this means that if you make $34,000 for the family, you are in the top 1% of income earners in the world. If you don’t want to look at the discrepancy of cost of living in the world, then you can use their income  calculator to find out where you fit into the United States’s income class.

If you don’t agree with how the numbers turn out, then consider this: If you have more than one car, you are wealthy. If you have a cell phone and big screen TV, you are wealthy. We don’t see things that way. Instead, we want to compare ourselves to our neighbors and then wonder why we don’t have enough to take that trip to Europe like so and so is doing. Dave Ramsey, author and financial expert says there’s a difference between being poor and broke. He says poor is an attitude, while broke is something you are passing through. Some people have a poor state of mind. They constantly feel like they need more: money, cars, next best thing. They hunger and thirst for something and don’t realize what they have is a spiritual hunger that only Christ can feed. It’s a spiritual thirst that only the Living Water, Jesus Christ can quench. This is a part of being poor in spirit.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:3

Sometimes, we need to step back and do something outside of ourselves to see our own situation. It’s eye-opening to go to a place where people had been living on the sidewalk or in their car and now have a place to lay down their head at night and eat three meals a day. Not only is it a visible reminder of material things you have (which can be taken away) but also of the spiritual blessings like peace that have come your way from God. I found myself being thankful for having a loving two-parent family, of having a loving spouse and children. These are the things that come to your mind and help you sift out the material things that clutter up your brain.

In the Bible, Matthew, Mark and Luke’s Gospel tell about the Rich Young Man (Mark 10:17-31). The man comes to Jesus and asks what he needs to do in order to have eternal life. They have a dialogue where the man says he has kept all of God’s commandments but wanted to know what he lacked. The Bible notes something really interesting here “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

Jesus knew what was in the young man’s heart. He knew that he was keeping a religious checklist to work his way into the kingdom of heaven. What the young man didn’t know was that Jesus delivered a one-two punch: 1) sell all you have 2) give to the poor. Jesus isn’t asking all of us to do that. HOWEVER, He does know what you keep in your heart as #1. If that isn’t Him, you will get called out on it. There are many things we say in order to justify not following God first. We say noble things like “I’m doing this for my family” or “I can give more to charity this way.” Those may be true, but your family may not need that new TV or the trip to Cancun or other things. You may be able to give more money, but the time you are taking to gather all that cash maybe taking away from something you could be doing to serve God. It starts in the heart and from the heart comes your attitude towards what you might need and what you might want.

Today was an attitude-adjusting day for me. I am saying all these things to you because these are things I struggle with personally as well. I hear that voice whispering in my ear that I need this thing or that thing to make me happy, when the real truth is that God has given me all I need and I know that He will continue to do so daily. Amen.

So if you find yourself running on a hamster wheel of work, or running after things of this world, stop for a moment and think about where your heart is. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also ~ Matthew 6:21

 

 

Lost in Translation~A New Christian

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If it’s not confusing enough to deal with the English language and its complexities, let’s throw another angle of confusion. Last week, I wrote about how complicated the English language can be to an immigrant. As I was pondering the confusion a brand new country and language can bring, I was also struck by how confusing it was to become a Christian. When people are “cradle Christians,” they seem to take things for granted. As someone new to the Faith, I had tons of questions and it seemed that no one really knew what the answers were.

When my whole family and I were baptized in January of 2007, we were met with great joy from our congregation. For me, however, it opened up a new world. A world that began with getting my own Bible, as none was provided for me. I went to Mardel’s (a Christian store) and began my search. After two hours and forty five minutes, I still did not understand why there were so many different versions of the Bible. I actually panicked because I thought “maybe the Quran was right – there are so many different variations of the Bible here!”

I didn’t realize that all those different Bibles were not variations in the message of the text, but different translations. They are not corrupt nor do they change the meaning or intent of the passage. There is an excellent research article written by James White for the Christian Research Institute, titled “Is your Modern Translation Corrupt?” Mr. White provides parallel passages that challenge those who say that the Bible has been corrupted over time (not just a claim made by Muslims, but others as well). I am impressed by how much research and critical thinking has gone into providing a Christian with multiple views on how a passage has been translated. When you have more than one look at a passage – doesn’t it add to the overall understanding of the passage (and not take away from it, as many claim)?

New International Version
Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Psalm 119:89

New Living Translation
Your eternal word, O LORD, stands firm in heaven. Psalm 119:89

English Standard Version
Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Psalm 119:89

New American Standard Bible
Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven. Psalm 119:89

King James Bible
LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. Psalm 119:89

If you just look at the above, it is interesting how each of the translations say the same thing just in a different way. All reinforce the fact that the word of the Lord.

If all this was not confusing enough to the newcomer, there is also a host of “Christianese” that is tossed about. For example, during this time of year, the word “Lent” and how the 40 days from Ash Wednesday don’t really add up to 40 days until Good Friday. or  why the grammatically confusing “He is Risen” or other words that go with Christianity that end in  -ology: doxology, eschatology, etc. Then you have the other words that show up in the title of the Bible books like “Leviticus” and “Deuteronomy.” So strange! When I asked mature Christians about some of these terms, I ended up with looks of confusion on their part as well.

I think that the biggest thing a newcomer to the Christian faith brings is the hunger to learn all that we can about it! I wanted to know all these terms and not just accept them as “it’s just something we’ve always done.” There is a rich tradition in Christian history that allows us to question and even challenge what is presented to us. God gave us a brain to use – the deeper you get into His word, the more riches we find!

I hope you will consider some of these things and help a new Christian along in their faith. I hope that you will learn some of these things for yourself and also take a look at what you believe and WHY you believe it. If you ask God to help you with all these things, you will end up with a faith that is deep and wide.

Unity out of Diversity~ God’s Way

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Last week, I talked about how diversity is looked at here in the United States. I think in order to understand the Unity piece of it, we need to go to the beginning. The VERY beginning, namely, Genesis. My husband and I were guests at the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) Founder’s Weekend Conference the past four days and author, apologist Amy Orr-Ewing spoke on the very topic. She stated that when God put forth the heavens and the earth in Genesis, He worked in pairs. He made the Heavens & the Earth, Darkness & Light, Day & Night, Land & Sea, the greater light to govern the day & the lesser light to govern the night, and finally, male & female (see Genesis 1). There is a natural pairing that God does, yet He makes them complementary. Just as the sun lights the day, the moon offers a gentle light at night. Even though they are different, they work together as one.

If you have a significant other, you can further see the diverse nature of man and woman in a relationship. When married, these differences can either make the marriage or break it. So diverse are we in our gender. Take for instance, the difference between my husband and I when it comes to packing for a trip. We used to take one suitcase when we were newlyweds (how stupid can you get?). Now, after 22 years of marriage, we take our own. It’s just better that way. It takes me at least a day or two to pack and even then I don’t feel like I bring enough stuff. I am constantly saying “Oh, I wish I would’ve packed XYZ.” There’s nothing like that for him. It takes him under one hour to pack and he’s good. We have a different way of looking at just about everything – from relationships, to child-rearing, communication, work, weather, and of course, maps & following directions.

Yet, there is something special about the way we work together. It is truly wonderful. One of the greatest blessings is when we end up with the same thoughts on things of importance. We tend to have the same values on religion (God has helped us in an amazing way), family (we had to learn more about each other here), and also how to use logical thought for problem solving. These are things add meaning to our marriage and help us to become one. The most important thing in our marriage, however, was to stop focusing on each other and instead to focus on God.

I think that is also the secret to understanding diversity – whether it’s in marriage or at work. If you focus on what God has designed and look at people for what gifts God has given them, you gain a fresh perspective that is tinged with excitement. I love asking people about what spiritual gifts they have. If you are a believer in Christ, the Holy Spirit has given YOU a gift. If you don’t know what it is, there are many spiritual gifts inventories you can take (try this one here)!

There is diversity in the way that God has made us and He did that because He can – what a glorious creativity! As we walked through the airport, I marveled at all the different types of people I walked past just in the terminal. So many features, skin color, backgrounds… it’s not boring to people-watch. Christ unites us, while the world tries to divide. The world wants to divide into categories: rich, poor, slave, master, Jew or Gentile.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Yet, when He looks at us and calls us, He tells us to keep the unity of the Spirit. One body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and the Father of all. This is true unity and only through that unity, do we keep the bond of PEACE. That bond of peace only comes through the Holy Spirit and the Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:3-6

Leap of Faith

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It’s not easy to be this guy (see above in the picture)… suspended in mid-air, wondering if he’s going to make it to the other side or if the other side is even more unstable than the one he just left. YET, there’s something compelling about it. Maybe it’s the fact that he did decide to jump in the first place. Then, the reason behind it comes to mind… why did he do it?

We have had choices in life that we’ve had to make. Should I? Shouldn’t I? In fact, today was one of those decision days. Nothing seemed stable for me today. My mind was in a whirl. When those days come, I almost go into a “cocoon mode,” where I want to turn in on myself and not even deal with what is going on around me. Those decisions can just wait, I tell myself. I am not ready to come to make a choice.

In organizations and business, this is the same practice. Business needs change on a daily basis. You might be reading this blog on your iPad or iPhone. The operating system on that device may have recently changed or even the latest version may have come out. Change is inevitable in any situation – work, home, school, life. HOW one deals with these situations is what makes a difference.

Taking a leap of faith is not just a religious term but is something we do on a daily basis. When I googled “Leap of Faith,” the term came up as something the philosopher Kierkegaard came up with. In fact the way he addressed the topic was almost as a leap from one thing to another.  The bottom line for a Christian, however, is what would you leap towards? If it indeed is Faith, what is that Faith placed in? Is it your paycheck? Is it gaining an education? Is it Christ? I am not asking questions in a rhetorical manner. In fact, I will be very honest here. My faith and leap goes to money first, even though on my money it says blatantly “In God We Trust.” Not so much sometimes! I have to pray every morning that my decisions are not based on my desires (for me,  money translates to security – albeit FALSE security), but instead are based upon what God wants me to pursue for His glory. It’s a daily struggle.

When I do happen to take that leap of faith into Christ’s will, however, I find that He always had a better plan in mind for me than what my limited mind could concoct. His plans usually impact others in a better way as well. So when you are faced with decisions to make or changes to contemplate in your life, I pray that you will STOP.

Stop running through scenarios – especially negative ones.

Take a deep breath.

Obedience to God shows our love for Him (1 John 5:2-3)

Pray for God to lead you and for Him to grant you the courage to put the worldly cares aside and seek only His kingdom first.

When you do that, you will find that the peace that passes all understanding will wash over you.

~For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. ~ Isaiah 55:8

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.~ Philippians 4:6-7

What does it take to be a SERVANT?

This week, in one of the Management courses I am teaching, we are discussing Servant Leadership. Servant Leadership is an interesting concept that truly takes what the world sees as a leader and turns it backwards.  The topic has my mind reminiscing.

When we lived in Pakistan, we had many servants. In fact, our large home had servant’s quarters in the back. These were rooms with a connecting bathroom that they could share. There was a bed and their own belongings. The servants could live there so they didn’t have to pay to commute (cars were hard to come by for poor people) and basically it was free room and board. Since I grew up with this, I didn’t think much of it. It was the norm.

One of the rooms was given to my beloved nanny, Abbai. She didn’t really stay there, as she was our nanny. She usually slept in our home and in our rooms. She did keep one old-fashioned lock trunk with her few possessions in that little servant’s room. The other room was generally occupied by our cook who had to get up early to make meals and stay late to clean up. I never really paid much attention to our cook either, unless I wanted a treat to eat.

The term “Servant” is not really a good one for most of the world. It means one who is subservient and caters to another’s beck and call. My parents did not encourage us to talk to the house servants – we didn’t know them personally and you just didn’t do that. The only exception was our nanny who was with us continuously and was considered to be a part of our family. So she was above the other servants due to her close relationship with the family. I thought of her as my grandmother for many years.

Anyone who has seen the BBC hit series “Downton Abbey” knows that even within the servants, there is a hierarchy. Our “chokeedar” or janitor was probably at the bottom, while my nanny, cook, and inside servants had the higher ranks. I didn’t know much about that either, other than seeing my nanny ordering the gardener or chauffeur to do a few things for her. I do recall, however, my mother presiding over the household matters with an air of authority. She was always quiet, never yelling but her gentle manner in which she carried herself spoke of her rank as lady of the house (mem sahib). She would line up the servants and give them their orders, especially when we were hosting a party or having guests… which was often.

ALL of this changed when we moved to the United States with only our 6 suitcases. My father, an electrical engineer, received multiple offers in the US that would set our family up for success financially – even more than what we had in Pakistan. When we moved here, it was a rude awakening for all of us, as there were no servants. Not even our nanny was allowed to come with us (a fact that still brings me to tears as a grown woman). We had to make our own meals, do the wash, clean, garden, and do all things that normal American families do (only we weren’t normal Americans!).

One day, my mother decided to host a party for some of the people we got to know from the Pakistani community. As we set about cooking, early in the morning, we were so excited. It had been a while since we had hosted a party. Little did we know that the party would not be for us. Instead, we were told not to eat until the guests had eaten (to ensure there was enough hot food on the table) and then to quickly eat so we could do the myriad of dishes (my mother only used china for entertaining) by hand. We were up until past midnight with the pile of dishes, desert dishes, tea cups, pots and pans from the day’s worth of cooking. As my parents had always pampered us as their beloved daughters, I did not want to now take on the role as a servant.

The next time there was a party, we were less excited and more wary – was it going to be the same thing again? If so, this was terrible! I began to detest my mother’s entertaining because it meant we had to fill in the serving role. We ate last, we worked and yes, we served the guests’ every need. This was a sore subject with me even until adulthood. I thought that I would not treat my own children as such! What an insult to use them as your makeshift servants… or so I thought at that time.

It was not until I met Christ Jesus that I understood why I had been placed in that role. It was a blessing and a gift that my mother gave me. I didn’t know that our Lord and Savior came to this earth not to rule with an iron fist, but to serve as the lowliest, most humble servant. In John 13, Jesus himself washes the disciples’ feet. To take off your clothes, be in your underclothes, is a sign of humility. To wash someone’s dirty feet, you have to have them sit or be raised higher than you and then you have to touch those feet with your hands and clean them. This was the job of the lowliest servant in the Eastern home. In Arabia, where there is dust and sand everywhere, there are servants to wash people’s feet. It’s disgusting, it’s grimy and it’s what the Lord of the Lords decided to take upon himself to do for his disciples.

When I read about what Jesus says “But many who are first will be last, and the last first” in both Matthew 19:30 and then again in Matthew 20:16, it made me scratch my head. It’s completely upside down from what the world says a leader is. We should be first in line. We should insist on our rights first. No, you shouldn’t let someone go ahead of you – you are much more important than that!

Jesus challenged his disciples to think differently. What if you started putting other people first? What would that look like to you? It could be something simple as allowing someone at the grocery store to go ahead of you. It could be something more difficult like allowing your spouse to have the final say on something you are passionate about. Or, it could be at work to let your employees know that I am here to serve you.

I am so thankful that the Lord taught me these lessons through my parents to serve others first and then serve yourself. I am thankful that I was taught to do the dishes and quit my complaining. These are the things that we now teach our children.

Can you imagine what that would do to the home, the workplace and to the world? Maybe people won’t notice… at first. I guarantee you that after consistently sending that message across with your actions, people WILL begin to notice and more importantly, you will begin to notice a change in your own heart.

Lord Jesus, may you increase and may I decrease. Amen.

What’s in a Name?

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For the Eastern mind, a name indicates the essence of a person. Many parents even decide to wait to name a child until they see its face to determine the child’s personality (we could not tell our children’s personality within the first week of life!). I was given the name Sabah  (صباح) when I was born. Sabah is an Arabic name that means early morning or dawn. For those who know me… that is a big, gigantic misnomer!  I cannot function in the mornings. Instead, around 6 pm, I happen to get my big burst of energy. So where did “Mona” come from? It was a nickname given to me by my uncle who died at an early age. Out of remembrance for him, my family continued to use his nickname for me, his little doll.

In the Bible, The Lord places much emphasis in names. He gives Adam the privilege of naming the animals  ~ The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. Genesis 2:20 Adam also names Eve (Gen 2:23). Later in Genesis 17:15, God gives Abram and Sarai new names also, for they were a new creation in Him. He changed Abram (means Father in Hebrew) to Abraham (means Father of many). Sarai’s name was a bit different. Some say that the original name may have a root of meaning quarrelsome or argumentative. Then the name was changed to Sarah or “my princess.” The Lord continues to do this with Jacob along with others all the way to the New Testament when we see Saul’s name changed to Paul.

As a Muslim, my heritage was no different than others in the East. There was great significance in names and religious names were considered superior, for they were given to prophets and God’s people. Even before Stephen and I had children, we had settled on the name of our first child – it would be Jacob (Arabic – Yaʿqūb) and if it was a girl, it would be Sarah. We both liked the fact that Jacob’s name could be Muslim and Christian. The name Sarah was different: it was Stephen’s great grandmother’s name and for me, it was my best friend’s name in Pakistan. When our first born son was born, we named him Jacob. We didn’t really do much research into what the name actually meant – holder of the heel, underminer, supplanter. All we knew was that the name was in both of our Holy books and that was good enough for us.

When our second son came, we were at a loss. I wanted Gabriel or David – both were strong names in the Quran and Bible. Stephen wanted John for his father’s name. We couldn’t agree. One day, a close friend came over and we were talking about baby names. She suggested “Joshua” – when we asked why, she simply replied “Sounds good with Jacob!” So much for picking thoughtful names… we went with Joshua for our second-born son.

For our daughter who came next, her name had been chosen over 9 years before she arrived! It was a no-brainer: Sarah if it was a girl and John David if it was a boy.

Looking back on all this as a Christian who converted from Islam, I cannot help but see the uncanny way The Lord was mapping out my life with my children’s names: Jacob – the liar, the one who undermined his brother and wrestled with God, Joshua – He Saves (also Yeshua in Aramaic – the name given to our Lord and Savior, Jesus) and finally, Sarah – my princess.

In the first part of my life, I wrestled continuously with the constraints put upon me through Islam. There were so many rules and I felt like I kept breaking all of them (not intentionally, but one after another). The wrestling continued until I met The ONE Who Saves, Jesus Christ. He then called me “His princess.”

God has a plan for each one of us (see Jeremiah 29:11), this is a plan to prosper us and not harm us, a plan to allow us to walk closely with Him. In His graciousness, He allows me now to look back and see that He was always with me – in my struggle, confusion, in a plan to redeem me for His purpose and a plan to allow me to dwell in the House of the Lord forever as His Princess.

What a beautiful God He is! Amen!