A Former Muslim’s View of the Cross

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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!
While you are on Anna’s site (http://thefirstthings.com/), check out her other podcasts as well.
May you celebrate the RISEN Savior who died on the cross for our sins and gave us life eternal!

He is RISEN!

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Importance of Fellowship

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Last week, I got to host the 5th & 6th grade girls Bible Study group for an Afternoon Tea at our home. Several of the mothers were not quite sure of what was going to happen at this gathering. When I mentioned that I was serving hot tea out of my china cups, I was met with skepticism and rightly so! Eleven & twelve year old girls handling china with bubbling hot liquids… was I sure about that?

The verse for the day was Hebrews 13:2, which my daughter had chosen a few months ago for the tea party fellowship.

Hebrews 13:2~ Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

It is difficult to fully understand what that verse is talking about unless you know that it refers to Abraham in Genesis! So, we had to read the following passage:

Genesis 18 ~   1Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. 2When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, 3and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. 4“Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; 5and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.” And they said, “So do, as you have said.” 6So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.” 7Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. 8He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate.

*****

Abraham was visited by the LORD Himself. Many say that the other two men were a part of the Trinity, while others say it was the LORD & 2 angels. Whatever the case, God came to Abraham. He comes, He cares, He is aware, He dines with us (Revelation 3:20) and He is involved in our hospitality to others.

 

The point of the gathering was to share a lesson on hospitality. If we treated everyone who came to our home as if they were sent by God, I think things might look a bit differently in our society. Hospitality is a hot button for me. I come from an Eastern culture that looks on Hospitality as a non-negotiable. It’s what you do – you prepare food for people and welcome them into your home. I wrote more about it here. Upon hearing about the tea party fellowship, one woman remarked that it must be easy for me, since I  was taught by my mother to do that and she’s never had that in her family… my answer to that is so what? Why is that an excuse? If you have a home, you should open it to others.  You don’t even have to cook – simply order food in, have a potluck, use your kitchen, gather together and rejoice!

As a new believer, I read Acts 2:46 which mentions that the newly formed Church met, broke bread together in their homes and ate with gladness. Why don’t we do that more often? My personal experience has been that for every TEN invitations I give, I am lucky to get ONE back. People don’t entertain, they don’t invite and they don’t meet in their homes. Now, we have had invitations to meet at restaurants… but rarely in homes.

My lesson for the girls was not just on how to drink tea from lovely cups… it went further than that. It was to cherish fellowship with one another. To eat and enjoy food together, giving praise to God the Father for ALL He has given you- including a Christian family.

May we remember to invite one another to our homes, may we share Christ in the breaking of bread together, may we pray for one another, may we grow up another generation of young believers who will open their homes and look more like the early church. Amen.

 

Not an Author

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From Isa to Christ – A Muslim Woman’s Search for the Hand of God (published Feb 2017)

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!

New Year, New YOU?

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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

No Peace

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NY Times Photo – Nigerian Mosque Nov. 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only Christ.

Only His Death.

Only His Resurrection.

Only His Peace… so we sing:

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

~(lyrics to Hark the Herald Angels Sing)

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

Amen.

ISIS & the Cultural Muslim

ISIS & the Cultural Muslim

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I know Muslim homes around the world were cringing yesterday when a Muslim man’s name was announced for the terrorist attacks in Spain. My family gets really agitated and worked up each time there is an attack. They don’t want to hear it was a Muslim person yet again who was driving into people, killing at random.

Most of my family and friends are “Cultural Muslims.” They will tell you that they are not terrorists. In fact, this is what I used to go and speak about as a Muslim woman after the 9/11 attacks. The Muslim community sees itself as a peaceful, working class group – just like any other patriotic citizen.  There is a desire to fit into the culture, yet be set apart from it due to the religion and what it entails. This is not an easy thing to do. It’s a fight I had within myself as I grew up Muslim in America.

The freedoms you have in the West do not compare to the oppression from Islamic nations. It’s really easy here to get used to being able to talk freely to everyone (including men), to speak your mind and share opinion without repercussions and to practice your religion – even at work. I enjoyed all these freedoms!

When faced with the media and portrayal of Muslims, I find a broad-brush statement like  “all Muslims are terrorists” or even “all terrorists are Muslims.” The frustration for others comes when Muslims do not stand up and deny that Islam teaches this type of behavior. It’s hard for someone who doesn’t come from this culture to understand what’s going on in the background.

Muslims – even cultural Muslims will not condemn what ISIS is doing because ISIS is indeed going by what the Quran says (see Quran 3:32, 48:29, 5:23, 9:29, 9:73, 9:111, etc). Orthodox Muslims will tell you that ISIS is those who are holding true to the Quran = real, authentic Muslims. In fact, Orthodox Muslims say that the Cultural Muslims are not real Muslims and have denounced them. 

When I was a Muslim and we showed up to the Mosque, I would inevitably get the 20 questions routine (I have blogged about this before). There is a battery of questions asked unashamedly by others. I was usually asked what my name was, my parents’ names, where we were from (city), if I was married, husband’s name (this was a kicker when I was married to an American, but remained a Muslim), if I kept all the fasts for Ramadan, if I prayed 5 times a day, on and on. They weren’t trying to be nosy – they were trying to figure out what kind of a Muslim I was. The reason why they asked is because we were not regulars to the Mosque! Should’ve been obvious we were not Orthodox in our beliefs. The question and answer session usually concluded with the person looking down at me in disdain.

Nevertheless, even the Cultural Muslims will not come out against what another Muslim is doing, especially if they have no clue as to whether or not the Quran supports it (for many have not read the Quran or have only read it in Arabic when it was not their native language). The condemnation only comes from the Orthodox Muslims for the rest of the Muslim world to follow what they are doing. This is not only scary for the Cultural Muslims (because they actually want to live in Western countries and want to work and be “normal”) but also for the rest of the population for the US and Europe. Did you follow that? Orthodox Islam condemns Cultural Muslims for their flimsy, watered-down beliefs. 

There is a definite call to follow Orthodox Islam. Saudi Arabia sets the tone for the rest of the world because it is the heart of Islam and the birthplace of Muhammad. The Muslim world looks to Saudi Arabia for everything from when the moon is in the right phase for the start of Ramadan to dictates that they set (especially Sharia law). In 2007, Saudi Arabia launched an official website for issuing of “Fatwas” (religious decrees and mandates put forth by Islamic scholars on a council, including who was an enemy of Islam).

When I speak publicly about growing up Muslim and becoming a Christian, I get responses like “well, the Muslims I know are nice people and not terrorists.” My response is that my own family is made up of nice people and not terrorists, but that isn’t the point. The point is that to say you are a Muslim, you have to believe 100% of what is in the Quran. You cannot say “I don’t believe in the violent passages of the Quran.” That is not possible. As a Muslim, it’s black or white. Either you believe or you are not a Muslim. This is the choice I was faced with when I started to read the Quran. I didn’t know there were passages about violence against women. I didn’t know that there were passages about violence against non-believers and that they were the enemy of Islam. I didn’t want to believe that. The problem was I could not then say I was a Muslim. I knew either I believed it or I did not.

Here’s just a small sample of what the Muslim Scholars say about a Muslim who doesn’t pray 5 times a day:

If the one who does not pray does not do it because he denies that it is obligatory, even though he is aware that Allah has commanded that prayer be established, then he is a kaafir and an apostate according to the consensus of the ummah. 

If a person does not pray because he denies that it is obligatory out of ignorance on his part that it is obligatory, such as one who is new in Islam, he is not deemed to be a kaafir, but he is to be taught and instructed to pray. 

Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (may Allah have mercy on him) said:  The Muslims are unanimously agreed that the one who denies that prayer is obligatory is a kaafir who is to be executed if he does not repent from that kufr. However they differed concerning the one who affirms that it is obligatory but deliberately does not do it even though he is able to.

End quote from al-Istidhkaar, 2/149 

NOTE: Kaafir = Unbeliever (usually used as an offensive word)

The choice I had to make was revealed to me by the Holy Spirit. I was led to a church, where the pastor shared the definition of GRACE with me. He also explained that Jesus was the only one who was sinless and could bridge the gap between us and God, thus giving us assurance of heaven. Muslims do not have assurance. They only have works. Either they do good deeds or they go to the fiery place and burn for an eternity. There is no Savior – it’s all up to you. This is why Jihad is so alluring. Jihad is the only 100% way to get to Paradise (Quran 4:95 & 3:169-170). It’s an act of desperation – of knowing you cannot make it to heaven because you have sinned. You cannot do it on your own, so you drive a van into a crowd.

Christians need to use this opportunity to share the message of Grace with a Muslim -that God offers us His mercy and pardon from sin as a gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23. It’s not what we do, but what Christ does that brings us to a place of peace and restoration with God and thus, with the world. The Muslim world is not our enemy. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12.  How much better would the world be if we realized we are not to hate your enemies but to love them and offer them peace found in Jesus Christ?

Father’s Day

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My father and me in Murree, Pakistan

Father’s Day is a reminder to us to go back and think of our earthly father who has influenced us over the course of our life. My father has been a generous source of caring and love. I have photos of him carrying his daughters around and you can see his giant grin that goes from ear to ear. He is the kind of father that is ready with a hilarious joke, a well-told story or the loving kindness in his smile – even for strangers.

Over the years, I have come to the realization that some don’t have a warm, fuzzy recollection of our father. For some, that person was just a “donor” and left soon after they were born. Others never knew an earthly father who raised them up.

We live in a broken, messed up world. There are painful stories people have shared with me that have brought me to tears, listening to the cruelty and heartbreak of an uncaring, missing father. Some of these personal stories have left me wondering how does this person carry on with their life or even more than that – how do they have a role model to follow?

Not only did I have my father who raised me up, but we had the additional blessing of having our maternal grandparents who lived with us for several years. My grandfather (lovingly called “Abba”) was also kind, caring and ready to sit with you. He wanted to be involved in your life and was genuine in his affection.  He was quiet in his manners and demeanor but made you feel special even when you sat next to him. He had all the time in the world to spend with you.

When I became a Christian, imagine my surprise at reading about how Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6: “Our Father in heaven,  hallowed be your name…” He told them to call God their Father. It even got more strange for me, because I was told the Aramaic (what Jesus spoke to his disciples) – “Abba.”  I about flipped out of my chair that Sunday morning! Abba was my grandfather – my grandpa. Abba was not God Almighty’s name!

As a Muslim, I was taught that God was way up high in the heavens and that he was indifferent to us unless it was during the time of prayer. You see, as  a Muslim, you have to have an appointment to truly talk to God. Even then, you aren’t really “talking” to him as an equal. You are bringing in your petition like a slave does to a king. You bow down low (literally the case during prayer) and then you say certain verses in Arabic. You don’t just plop down on the couch and chit chat with God (YIKES! Blasphemous!) but you approach His throne (see another post I wrote on this here: MY Dad’s Chair) carefully so you don’t cause offense.

There is no relationship with God. That is just a ridiculous notion to a Muslim. When I heard someone praying and calling God Almighty her “Daddy,” I freaked out then also. I did not realize that Jesus had given us the model to pray. We truly DO have the freedom to call Him our Father in Heaven, as well as “Abba.” He is just that close to us in a true relationship.

What a mind-blowing revelation to me! Yet, many Christians take this fact as nothing special. When we realize that we have officially been adopted into the Kingdom of the LORD God Almighty – creator of Heavens and earth, we should be shaking in our shoes. Instead, He welcomes us into an embrace – He runs to us (Prodigal Son parable – see Luke 15:20) with joy and His arms open wide!

On Father’s Day today, if you have a crummy earthly father, don’t give up hope. If you have a missing earthly father, don’t give up looking. If you have a wonderful earthly father, give God praise. For all of us, remember that we have a PERFECT Heavenly Father who is waiting for us very patiently to return to Him so He will run to us, embrace us, and call us His child.  What a wonderful God, Redeemer and Savior we have! Amen.

Muslims in Your Backyard

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Today, I was invited by my friend to attend a talk given by the Religion Department at Oklahoma City University. I welcomed the opportunity to be in the audience, given that I think we should have an open mind to see what the current Muslim conversation and views are in our community. The speakers were all from the University and were intended to present what it’s like to be a Muslim in America today.

Even though I was not speaking or on the panel (= not a Muslim), I had to pray that the Lord keep my mouth shut unless 3 conditions were met. I prayed “Lord, open my mouth only if 1) it glorifies you, 2) it glorifies your Son, and 3) it is wrapped in your love.” So, being equipped with prayer, I set off with my daughter (who had a fever yesterday and is fine today, but could not attend school due to 24 hr rule for fevers). Right when we got there, I realized I did not bring my notepad to take notes. So, digging into my purse, I found my Sephora coupon for a free mascara. After a moment of hesitation (free makeup!), I went ahead and wrote down notes from the speakers.

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Giving my ALL for Jesus!
The first speaker was the Imam from the Greater OKC Mosque. He is the Assistant Professor and Chair in Islamic Studies Religion and hails from Palestine. Just a side note, he is also the Imam for the guy Alton Nolan who beheaded an innocent woman, Colleen Hufford in Moore, Oklahoma. The Imam started off talking about Islamophobia in the US

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Alton Nolen in front of the Greater OKC Mosque
and asked why we couldn’t “coexist.” He cited examples of being harassed at the Muslim Day at the Capitol but nothing specific, other than saying that a Christian man from Kansas (how he knew he was Christian, I’m not sure) told him that he was “the devil.”

The other two speakers were less emphatic. The professor spoke about being victimized and using Muslims as doormats. He made political comments about the current presidency and also how he has been reading MLK Jr’s books about the Civil Rights Movement. He actually went as far as to say “the Civil Rights Movement is applicable now to the Muslim Community.” How? I find that to be a far reach. The African Americans at that time were facing serious oppression – separate bathrooms and eating areas, not being allowed seats on public transportation, etc. That is most definitely NOT what my family has faced as Muslims. He also said something that caught my attention. He said that Muslims needed to call for tolerance… really? Show me at least ONE Muslim nation that is “tolerant.” This is the reason why so many Muslims flock to the West – tolerance is here in the United States. You cannot find tolerance in the Sharia law that governs Muslim nations.

The young student they had on the panel was just darling and sweet in her replies. I told my husband afterwards that she reminded of me as a Muslim, telling everyone how wonderful Islam was. Her opening remarks were that she had not read the Quran and was not familiar with the writings, but she would share her experiences. She said that she had not felt any hate remarks aimed at her, even though she wears a hijab. She made it a big point to stress that she CHOSE to wear a hijab to cover and that no one was forcing her to do so. Her closing comment on Islam however, was naive and mistaken. She said that she wanted everyone to know that “Islam has the root word for peace and whenever we greet one another, we say ‘Salam’ which means peace be on you.” Unequivocally… not true.  If you want to know, here’s an excerpt from the website Answering Islam:

“In order to find the meaning of a certain word in the Arabic dictionary, it is essential to search for the three letter infinitive verb which is called the root. Many words can be derived from the same root, but they don’t necessarily have to have any similarity in their meaning. The word Islam, which means ‘submission’, is derived from the infinitive Salama. So is the word Salam which means ‘peace’ and so is the verb Salima which means ‘to be saved or to escape from danger’. One of the derivations of the infinitive Salama means ‘the stinging of a snake’ or ‘The tanning of the leather’. Hence, if the word Islam has something to do with the word Salam i.e. ‘Peace’, does that also mean that it must be related to the ‘stinging of the snake’ or ‘tanning the leather’?

Muhammad used to send letters to the kings and leaders of the surrounding countries and tribes, inviting them to surrender to his authority and to believe in him as the messenger of Allah. He always ended his letters with the following two words: “Aslim, Taslam!”. Although these two words are derived from the same infinitive Salama which is the root of Salam, i.e. ‘Peace’, neither one of them implies the meaning of ‘peace’. The sentence means ‘surrender and you will be safe’, or in other words, ‘surrender or face death’. So where is the meaning of ‘Peace”In order to find the meaning of a certain word in the Arabic dictionary, it is essential to search for the three letter infinitive verb which is called the root. Many words can be derived from the same root, but they don’t necessarily have to have any similarity in their meaning. The word Islam, which means ‘submission’, is derived from the infinitive Salama. So is the word Salam which means ‘peace’ and so is the verb Salima which means ‘to be saved or to escape from danger’. One of the derivations of the infinitive Salama means ‘the stinging of a snake’ or ‘The tanning of the leather’. Hence, if the word Islam has something to do with the word Salam i.e. ‘Peace’, does that also mean that it must be related t’ in such a religion that threatens to kill other people if they don’t submit to it?”

Pastor Mateen Elass also wrote a great blog on the very topic of Islam not meaning Peace. You can find it here & I encourage you to check it out.

The question and answer session began with the question “All of you have been talking about how peaceful Islam is, but what about the violent passages in the Quran?” The Imam took that question right away and said there were NO passages in the Quran about violence at all! He continued to say that in fact, the Quran does not have words like “kill” or  “kill the Infidels,” “convert or die, ” or even the word “sword.”  The professor on his right picked up this theme from the Imam and said how Jihad was only to indicate a personal struggle and that all the students in his class were Jihadists because they struggled to get good grades. The Imam said that the media had bastardized and perverted what was written in the Quran… after all, it is interpretation that is the issue.

NO, NOT SO. We cannot continue to play the “it’s written only in Arabic, so we cannot truly understand the Quran unless you read it in Arabic.” “Kill” in Arabic pretty much means “kill” in English. This was a hard thing for someone who has been a Muslim as an adult and has read the Quran to swallow. I had to break down and whisper to my friend who invited me and tell her that was a blatant lie. There are over 164 passages in the Quran that are violent and deal with war, jihad (even though the word is not used, the intent to fight infidels is clear), or killing. It is not a story about peace and love… not even close. On average, one out of every six lines is about hell fire and damnation.

There is NO good news for Muslims.

Here is a list of over 109 passages in the Quran from a website called The Religion of Peace. Below is only ONE of these verses where you will find… drum roll please… “Kill, Killing, and Kill again” from Surah Al-Baqara (2:191-2):

وَاقْتُلُوهُمْ حَيْثُ ثَقِفْتُمُوهُمْ وَأَخْرِجُوهُم مِّنْ حَيْثُ أَخْرَجُوكُمْ ۚ وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ الْقَتْلِ ۚ وَلَا تُقَاتِلُوهُمْ عِندَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ حَتَّىٰ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِيهِ ۖ فَإِن قَاتَلُوكُمْ فَاقْتُلُوهُمْ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ جَزَاءُ الْكَافِرِينَ

And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.

It’s difficult to sit there and see what is being said in front of you without anyone in the audience to challenge it. Yet I knew that this was not a place for debate and I was so thankful for coming to the place prepared through prayer ahead of time. The woman who asked the question about violence in the Quran left early, so I could not catch up to her to talk – maybe it was not meant to be. The rest of the questions were very politically correct and were in the line of “why can’t we all just get along?”

The message from the Muslim community (including those in my family) is mixed. There are many who do not know what is in the Quran and those who DO know (like the Imam) are choosing to not tell the truth or even a part of the truth.

It is important to know and look things up for yourself. The Quran is available online and all you have to do is to Google “violent passages in the Quran” or something along those lines to see BOTH the Arabic and the English. Please don’t accept things at face value. God gave us a brain and he intends for us to use it. Let’s use our brains to His glory and know what is being said in the media and on this type of a panel.

The end was more of the same. The Imam made an ostentatious claim that we are all under one God. He said “Allah, Eloh, Ilah” are all the same (look up the name Ilah & you will find something totally different!). Again, not true. Allah is only one dimension. Our God as revealed by the Scriptures is YHWH. He exists in three dimensions. Unless you know the relationship of love that exists between God the Father, the redeeming love of Christ Jesus and the breath of the Holy Spirit, you miss the whole picture. Allah is not the God of the Trinity.

There is great confusion and darkness for those who do not know God as revealed in the Scriptures. I pray that the Church will wake up and heed the Great Commission to GO! As one who lived in the US as a Muslim, I was accustomed to the darkness. I blindly believed what the Imams said in the mosque and what my parents told me. When the scales fell from my eyes and I saw the truth of God as revealed in Christ, it was indescribable. There is great freedom and love in Christ Jesus. I just pray that we, as Christians will share the Gospel in love. We need to always be prepared to give a reason for the HOPE we have ~ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… 1 Peter 3:15.

I beg you… Be ready! Be prepared! Give that reason for the hope you have in Christ. DO IT with gentleness and respect. This is what we need to share with Muslims today. Find a Muslim in your own backyard and share the Good News of the Gospel!

Divorce in Islam

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A few weeks ago, as I was quietly sitting down to a meal with my family, the discussion about women’s rights and Islam came up. The spirited discussion was heavily one-sided. The claims about how wonderful Islam was and how much women gained from the Quranic laws were being thrown around liberally.  Someone even made the comment that the Quran does not have any sayings about divorce, but that the divorce decrees and rules are all made by the Imams.

I couldn’t take it anymore…

I tried to sit in silence, but sometimes the unsubstantiated claims become too much to bear. I prayed quickly (“Lord Jesus, help me!”) and then said that I agreed that Mohammad put an end to female infanticide (killing baby girls because of the patriarchal society) but apart from that… nothing more. That’s when the whole table jumped on me. There were claims being made that Islam allows for women to openly divorce me (no, not true) and that women do have a choice when it comes to marriage (again, not according to the  Quran).  Another claim was that the “I Divorce You” statement said three times was also not in the Quran (yes, it is… see Al Baqarah verse 2:229-230). When I challenged that the Quran does indeed have rules about women and divorce, I was told “well, you read the translation – in Arabic, it’s different.”

Oh yeah… let’s play the translation card.

There is an entire Surah (Chapter) on Divorce! It’s called “Al Talaq.” The very first verse says :

“O Prophet, when you [Muslims] divorce women, divorce them for [the commencement of] their waiting period and keep count of the waiting period, and fear Allah , your Lord. Do not turn them out of their [husbands’] houses, nor should they [themselves] leave [during that period] unless they are committing a clear immorality. And those are the limits [set by] Allah . And whoever transgresses the limits of Allah has certainly wronged himself. You know not; perhaps Allah will bring about after that a [different] matter. (Al Talaq, 65:1)”

So… what is “the waiting period?” What is a “clear immorality?” Notice, that you don’t let them go and neither can they go of their own choice. If they leave = clear immorality! It’s a catch 22. There are women right here in Edmond, Oklahoma who are trying to help a Muslim woman leave her husband’s home because he has encouraged their young son to join in on the physical beatings she has received since the day they were married. She has suffered through this over the last 13 years. I met her 6 years ago, when the ladies from a church offered her a safe home. She told me then that she had no choice, but to return to him, since she was his property and rightfully belonged to him. Now, 6 years later, the beatings have doubled. There is NO HOPE.

Why then are Muslims, even cultural ones like my family, so quick to come to the defense of Islam and elevate it to the high levels as ones who not only support women’s rights, but PROTECT them?

The answer is: They haven’t really read the Quran. If they have read the Quran, they’ve read it in Arabic. If they’ve read it in Arabic, know that over 84% of the Muslim world doesn’t speak Arabic as their mother tongue. In other words, they have “read” and recited the Quran in Arabic (that’s the only way you are supposed to read it if you are a Muslim, by the way, for Arabic is considered to be the language of Heaven). If you read the Quran in a translated language, it is not exact because you are not reading it in Arabic. You cannot know what it says unless you read it the way it was given – in Arabic. The Muslims who don’t speak Arabic DO NOT actually understand what the heck it is they are reciting – in the Quran and also in their prayers.

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Hadith Book 12 verse 2218 

The second piece of this mystery is the Hadith. The Hadith are traditions of the prophet that were used to explain confusing passages in the Quran. When I was a Muslim, I knew about the Hadith, but there was no access to it. The internet has brought the Hadith to everyone, but even now my family shrugs it off – they have the Quran and that’s all they need. They get traditions and Quranic verses confused all the time. Here is a good website where you can find more information on what traditions exist about Divorce and Women.

When I was a Muslim (and a pretty bad one at that), I tried to pray 5 times a day after 9/11. The prayers are all recited in Arabic. Did I mention that I was one of the 84% that didn’t speak Arabic? Yes, it’s true. I recited all my prayers in Arabic, knowing that I probably was not pronouncing the prayers correctly, so I would do extra rakats (for extra credit). This is the reality and truth for many Muslims around the world: Praying without knowing what you are saying, reading your holy book without knowing what it says and then claiming that you know what Islam is all about.

I hope this explanation helps with understanding why so many Muslims seem confused about what they believe in. I was one of those.

Here is a link to an excellent article by Pastor Mateen Elass titled

Fake News Headline #2: Muhammad Was a Champion of Women’s Rights!

Many Muslims have a heart for God. They are out there searching for answers and the truth. Islam is confusing. The writings in the Quran are confusing. They are praying for God to show them the way. Please pray that they will indeed find the WAY, the TRUTH and ultimately, the LIFE through Jesus Christ Our Lord!

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Looking Forward, No Looking Back

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The New Year brings anticipation for many and anxiety for others. What challenges will I face? What will the days bring? We used to stay up to watch the clock strike 12:00 am and celebrate the coming of the new day. Not anymore. There’s really no point to it. Technically, it’s already the New Year somewhere in the world… so just because the ball drops in New York which is still not midnight in Oklahoma or the big potato drops in Idaho, doesn’t really mean much to us anymore.

I have been talking to a few people about the incoming New Year and about children getting ready to graduate or other life’s changes. Many of them have spoken to me about it with anxiety written on their faces. There is a very strong desire to hold on to the past and simply ignore the future. We aren’t really supposed to look that far into the future, for Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I think this is why my attitude about the New Year is nonchalant. Everyday is a new day – why don’t we celebrate that? Why are Mondays the cause of so much grumbling? Isn’t that a new vista of opportunity?

Along with the New Year’s traditions, people sing the tune from 1788 called “Auld Lang Syne.” For many years, I didn’t realize that it was Scottish. I only thought it was sung by drunk people who were blurring the words together so they didn’t make any sense (yes, that still may be true). The song, translated in English talks about the days gone by and how old acquaintances should be remembered. When I contemplate the popularity of the song around New Year’s time, I am sure that people are thinking about past regrets and others that have slipped out of their lives.

There is definite sadness to that. There are many this year who have suffered, have lost loved ones and have dealt with hard times. I know that the anxiety for the New Year brings some to consider more of the same kind of things for their family and even more changes. That can make anyone apprehensive. Yet, the story of Lot’s wife comes into play here for me. There was something that captured my attention when I first read about this in Genesis. For those of you who may not be familiar, in Genesis 19, Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his family are told to take their family and flee from the city of Sodom that was going to face utter destruction. In Genesis 19:26, there is one line “But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” What in the world? Why would that happen to her and what made her look back – even though the angels had given firm instructions NOT to look back?

That’s the only line in that story – it doesn’t tell us much about her, what happened next or why she did it. The only explanation I could come up with were that she was still attached. Even though the city was evil in the sight of the Lord, she still liked her stuff. She still had friends there and maybe was thinking about her home and things (I can relate!). It wasn’t until I started to read more of the Bible and learn about what Jesus says about the cost of Discipleship with Him, that the story finally makes more sense. In Luke 9, Jesus tells a man to follow him. The exchange takes place like this:

59Then He said to another man, “Follow Me.”

“Lord,” the man replied, “first let me go and bury my father.”

60But Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You, however, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61Still another said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first let me bid farewell to my family.”

62Then Jesus declared, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

Think about it…there were people who saw Jesus face to face and told him “no, thanks.” They were tied to their family and to their things. They wanted to take their time and follow Jesus when they wanted to – not when He said to do it. In 1 John 2:15, the verse says “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” Yikes… there is much I love in the world including my own family. This is a sticking point for many of us. What do you put first? Who do you put first? It’s easy to talk about following Jesus, but when push comes to shove, would you do it? Would you look back to the stuff you used to have? The buddies you used to go out with? The shows you used to watch on TV? How about your family? What if your family was not on board? There is a cost to following Christ. Are you ready to pay it? What if you don’t pay it?

The scriptures that bring all of this together are given to us in Luke .There is a price to pay now for following Christ and for walking with Him daily. People will look at you and call you “over-zealous” or even “over-religious.” Some may not have nice things to say at all or even laugh at you or react to you in anger. The truth is that tomorrow is not guaranteed to us. You can die today. We can plan for a whole New Year – think about the next 365 days, but none of that will matter. So what about today? Luke 17 says:

 30“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” [36]

Chilling thoughts. Not necessarily ones we want to think about on New Year’s Day with the clean up from last night’s celebrations. But Christ WILL come. It’s truth and a given. When He comes, where will you be? Will you go back to thinking about what you have or what you own? Will you be like Lot’s wife, and from the shelter of her husband, from behind him, look back towards destruction?

When you walk daily with Christ, you walk forward towards eternal life. There is a comfort and a peace that blankets you. There is a knowledge that whatever comes your way, you have a Savior who loves you and has died for you. He has taken on death so that when your time comes, you move from this physical state into another state of eternal glory. In the blink of an eye, you will be changed (1 Cor 15:52). From the lyrics of an amazing song by Horatio Spafford “It Is Well with My Soul:”

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

~May that day come without fear or anxiety for you. May it truly be well with your soul. That is my New Year’s blessing and prayer for you.