Scared to Death

 

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From Camberley Mosque, UK

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

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

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

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

From the Quran (al An’aam 6:60)

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

Interpretation – Hadith Al Bukhaari, 7474

 

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Comforts His Disciples

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

Jesus the Way to the Father

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OVERFLOW!

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

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

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

I can answer that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Wives, Submit to Your Husbands

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

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

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

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

21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Eid al Adha, 9/11, and God’s Sacrifice on Mount Moriah

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NY Times Photo for Sep. 10, 2016 -More than 3,000 Muslims gathered for prayer at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, Me., at the start of Eid al-Adha in 2015. Credit Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald, via Getty Images.

Eid al Adha is a Muslim celebration that is translated as the “Festival of Sacrifice” or “Bakr Eid” (Bakr means Lamb or Goat in Arabic). It falls on different days due to the Lunar Calendar. Once the new moon is sighted, the Festival is celebrated 10 days later. According to Al Jazeera, the  Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia stated that the New Moon did not fall until September 2, so they have declared Eid al Adha to be on September 12, 2016. However, if you look at the reports for the new moon (here,  here and here), all show it to fall on September 1, 2016, making Eid al Adha today, September 11, 2016. Personally, I believe it was a political decision to move it to September 12.

Regardless of the day Eid al Adha falls upon, countries do celebrate it on different days. In my post titled “The Sacrifice of the Lamb,”  I wrote about the significance of the sacrificial lamb and how Christ was described as the “lamb who was slain” (John 1:29 and Rev 5:6).  Muslims celebrate Eid al Adha during the season of Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) and almost two million people are expected to journey this year to Saudi Arabia to perform one of the 5 pillars of faith in Islam. For most Muslims, Eid al Adha is marked with a sacrifice of a lamb or goat, which they eat, share and give to charity as a part of alms (another pillar of faith in Islam) and go to each others’ homes for parties and celebrations. For me, as a child, it meant dressing up in Eid clothes, getting Eidee (Eid money) and gifts from loved ones – it was kind of like Christmas, just without Christ or the tree or Santa.

I was reminded today by the date that it was the 15th anniversary of one of the most horrific days in the United States. September 11, 2001 is still etched in the minds of many Americans. In fact, I can remember exactly where I was when I heard the horrible news come through my car radio. I was in my minivan, driving to the shopping center on the corner of 2nd and Bryant. I was stopped at a red light and I heard about the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center building. Parking my car as quickly as I could, I listened to the rest of the news. I headed home immediately, abandoning my plans so I could get the news on the TV. It was gut-wrenching especially as the news began to pour in about Muslims behind the multiple attacks.

That day marked a turning point in my life. I just didn’t know it at that time how much it would shape my future. After 9/11, my phone began to ring off the hook. Since I teach Human Resources and Cultural Diversity, many organizations asked me to speak to them and help them to understand what it was like growing up in Muslim countries and what it was like to be a Muslim woman. 9/11, despite the grave losses, was financially beneficial to me. I had speaking engagements lined up for the rest of the year! 9/11 also launched me on the path to the decision to become a better Muslim and also to read the Quran cover to cover. I began that journey and it took me over 3-1/2 years to read the Quran.

The Quran is what led me to Christ. When I share my testimony, many ask me “what did someone say to you to make you believe?” or “what should I say to a Muslim person who might have been like you?” My journey was different. I did not have a SINGLE AUTHENTIC WITNESS who shared the true Gospel with me – none. Instead, God in His infinite mercy led me to Christ through the Surah Maryam (Mary – mother of Jesus) in the Quran. I could not reconcile the miracles and power of Christ with the teachings of Islam and Mohammad. I also realized through the Holy Spirit that I could not work my way into Heaven and that I needed God’s help.

I owe everything to Christ’s sacrifice as the lamb who was slain. Did you know that on Mount Moriah, Abraham gave up his son so that “God Himself would provide the lamb?” (Gen 22:8). Did you know that the Solomon’s Temple was built upon that very mountain? Did you know that JESUS CHRIST was crucified on Mount Moriah, fulfilling God’s promise of salvation through the blood of the only blameless, sinless lamb of God?

Gives you goosebumps, doesn’t it?

God is all-seeing, all-knowing. He is omniscient, omnipotent and worthy to be praised! So this day, please pray for Muslims who do not know the real reason behind Abraham’s sacrifice. Please pray for Muslims who are reading the Quran, trying to get to God through their own works and through meeting a checklist of the pillars of faith for Islam. Please pray for the families of the victims of 9/11, knowing that there are many more stories of lives impacted for the Kingdom through their deaths. Please pray for our country that we wake up to the only Way, Truth, and Life through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So when you find yourself saying:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Sacrifice of the Lamb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Why is there Suffering?

suffering

What a question~ especially with the Paris Attacks on Friday. My husband and I were on a plane back from Florida and the RZIM conference that I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago. I love being on an airplane – not because of the joy of the ride, but it’s mainly because the person next to me is a captive audience the moment they buckle up their seat belt. I wait for that little click and it’s my cue to be on. So, I do what I normally do in any HR interview… I ask them questions about themselves. People love talking about themselves and frankly, I love to listen to them talk. You find out the most amazing things and then there are those things you would’ve rather not known. The same is true for any HR interview – it’s that little question at the end “So, is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?”

On an airplane, things are not that formal. I usually start off with “are you going somewhere or coming back home?” I can also gauge how open or closed that person is to talking when they pop their pesky little earbuds back into their ears. But that does not stop me. I am kind of persistent (ask my husband! Ha!). I ask other things like – do you have a dog waiting for you or family?

So, on this flight from Atlanta (connected from Florida) to OKC, I got the middle (which I love!) and Stephen got the aisle (which he loves). This young man got the window. He was in good spirits about it and thanked me for not being 6’5″ and 350 pounds. It was a good start. I asked him the usual stuff and found out that he was an Engineer for NASA… not joke. I was sitting next to a Rocket Scientist. We talked for almost an hour (it was an hour & a half flight) about Engineering (our son, Jacob is in his first semester at OC in Engineering) and how wonderful it was for him to do Thermonuclear Engineering for Space Craft.

About 50 minutes into this conversation, I prayed in my heart “Lord Jesus, I want to share about you, but how do I bring you into Thermodynamics at NASA?” I’m not sure how, but I asked him something along the lines of “you’ve told me about how awesome your job is, but what about your personal life. Where do you find your HOPE?” He paused for a second and said “in people.” The minute he said that, he made a face. I smiled and said “Wow! For a smart guy, that’s not the best, most secure place to put your hope.” He then said that he wasn’t sure if he bought into the “religion stuff.” I think I surprised him by telling him that Jesus didn’t like the religious people of his day either. In fact, he called them “Hypocrites.” Jesus doesn’t want rule-followers. He wants a relationship based on LOVE.

 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. ~Matthew 23:27-28

In fact, in the Matthew passage above, there were 7 woes to the Pharisees (see Matthew 23:13-39). He was surprised to hear me say that. In fact, he told me that no one had ever told him that before. The next thing out of his mouth was the question above “If God is so good, WHY IS THERE SUFFERING?” Having come straight from the RZIM four day conference, I felt prepared to answer that. One of the things a speaker (cannot remember who) said was that when RZIM teaches apologetics (defending the Christian Faith) was to look for the question that was underlying the main question. What the young man really was asking is “Why am I suffering?

Because God doesn’t waste anything, I was able to answer the question based on my scientific education (Bachelors of Science in Microbiology, Minor in Chemistry… don’t even ask me). I said “To answer that question, let’s take a look at what you do for NASA. You calculate and design systems that deal with the impact of heat within a vessel. Even in a perfect laboratory setting, you will have breakdown of matter and heat will escape, right? Well, how is this world any different? The Lord created all things and He deemed them as being “good.” When sin entered the garden, it brought degradation and a breakdown of the perfect system. This world is broken. That’s why your experiments should work out in theory, but when you put them into the physical world, they break down. Man is not a perfect entity. Man is broken. We have to be saved from something outside of us. We cannot be the HOPE. Only Christ can. He was the only one who was perfect and sinless.

In your experiments, you have a standard, right? You even told me that you do validation of data for other vendors who contract with NASA. Where did that standard come from? What if the vendors told you that they would use their own data to tell you if their work was okay, instead of using your standards. Would that work?” He said “No way, that wouldn’t even work!” “So, in the same way, we Christians look outside of the world to find the standards for everything – if we create our own basis for ethics and morality, what is real and what is truth, it will not be a consistent measure. Just as one vendor would tell you one thing, the other will make his data fit his own measure as well.”

I also thought it was a good time to ask the other question. So I asked him point blank “Are you suffering?” He immediately got tears in his eyes and looked away. He told me that his dad died suddenly while he was in his Master’s program. He said that he was not even done with grieving yet and that he chose to ignore it, but it wasn’t going away. He could not come to terms with it. I told him about Jesus, the suffering servant. The only one who could know what this young man was going through. I told him about the Loving Father God, who gave up his son and who knows this young man by name. In fact, I told him that God knows every hair on your head.

He said that he wanted to know more and that Christianity seemed like a set of rules and not as a relationship. At this point, Stephen popped in and asked him if he liked to read. He said that he would be on another 1.5 hour flight after this one. He handed him Ravi Zacharias’s book “Can Man Live without God?” He promised to read it. Before we landed, the three of us held hands and prayed for this sweet young man who was hurt and seeking truth. It was such a joy to be a part of what God is doing all around us. I also have to add a note here: God will use you in a way that is best fitted to you! He will give you the words to share through His Holy Spirit – do not worry. He is the author and perfecter of our faith.

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~Hebrews 12:2

Next time you fly, why don’t you ask for a middle seat? You never know which one of His children God will place beside you.