El Roi – God Who Sees Me

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Can you imagine having a Muslim covering on while at the airport? We all know how difficult it is to travel with the hassles of airport security but for one woman, this was compounded by wearing a hijab and dealing with little ones, passing through security and then feeling like all eyes are upon you.

A friend and I were on the way to Florida a few years ago. A young woman in a hijab caught my eye while getting on the plane – not because of her hijab, but truly because of her lovely little children. They were darling and were seated a few rows behind us. Having my crochet stuff in hand and a long flight, I settled in to see if I could whip up matching crochet hats for the little ones. It was a bit stressful, but somehow, it was done. When the plane stopped and everyone jumped up, I said hello and gave her the gift of my hands. She was shocked and so was her husband. They had the largest smiles on their faces when they saw my backpack full of yarn. She quickly asked me for my name and we connected on Facebook. This was a chance encounter – over two years ago.

This morning, I opened a package in the mail… it was a hand-written note and the most beautiful beaded jewelry that took my breath away from the same woman. She said she was not good on time management and I am sure any woman with little children can attest to that.   It’s not about the timing of the note, it’s not even about the woman who gave the gift of her own hands, but it’s about God who sees me and knows what I love.

siddiqui

The gift comes at a time that I offered up everything to God in prayer. This is not a shallow offering, but one of taking a step out in faith. I know that He has good plans for me. These plans may not look anything like I want or even foresee. But I know that God is the One who sees us. He is El Roi.

Genesis 16 says that Hagar was sent to Arabia after Sarah (Abraham’s wife) treated her harshly after she learned that she had conceived Abraham’s child. She prayed to God in her distress and he answered her. The Bible says in Genesis 16:13 thatShe gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me (El Roi). Muslims, Christians and Jews believe this to be true.

I know that God knows my heart and this morning’s package of jewelry and beautiful hand-beaded work was a love note directly from Him. He knows the details of your life and the desires of your heart. Offer yourself up to Him as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) and watch what He does with your life.  He is the Almighty God and when He is involved in the details, there is nothing and no one who can harm you. He reminds us of this in Hebrews 13:6 “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

So with that in mind and in prayer, why don’t you reach out to a Muslim TODAY with love?Why not share in the talents and gifts God has given you? Why not invite someone of a different and even challenging belief to a meal in your home? Why not do something positive and encouraging for a world that is hurting? Do not fear and do not be afraid – especially of sharing your love that is in Christ Jesus.

Who knows? You might be a recipient of someone’s love two years later!

May God be given all the glory. 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.

 

Why Did God Do This?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What is Love?

imageThe 2nd week of Advent is about Love. You would think that a woman who loves Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters’ novels, I would be able to write about love without a problem. Truth is that I have been struggling since Sunday about what to write. How do you narrow down the topic of love?

The Ancient Greeks had the right idea. They had multiple names for Love: Eros (sexual, passionate love – the kind most people who are dating are looking to find), Philia (deep friendship – like “Philadelphia: City of brotherly love”), Ludus (playful love – flirting or catching someone’s eyes and smiling at a private joke), Agape (selfless love – later translated to Caritas, Latin for Charity), Pragma (mature, long-standing love), and Philautia (self-love). Another word I found for love from the Greeks is Storge – parental love.

Maybe this is why I was having a hard time narrowing down this topic.

It’s interesting to me that the 2nd week in Advent asks us to be reminded of Christ’s love for us. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I have been thinking about this over-used verse. You see it at football games and just about on every Christian bumper sticker. What does it actually say? If we break down each part, we see:

*For God so LOVED the world: Why would God love the world? Well, for starters, he created it. He also created human beings in His image. We bear the likeness of God – how amazing is that? By the way, that’s ALL human beings. Not just ones who claim Christianity, but also those who turn away from it or hate it. He created us in love, with a capacity to love others and he also created us to have a choice to love Him back.

*… that he gave his one and only Son: He GAVE. God gives. God gives freely. He gives so freely that he was willing to give a part of his eternal trinity – the presence of God the Son to the broken down world. Again, WHY would God do that?

*…that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life: This is why. This is the reason why Christ came, lived, died, and rose again from the dead. So that he would conquer death, so that all who believe in him will have eternal life. No strings attached. No earning God’s favor, no waiting to be a better person or maybe if I didn’t do such and such. God wants you as you are, but he wants you to come to him of your own free will. We can only share the message of Christ in love. We cannot and should not beat people over the head with the love of Jesus! It doesn’t work that way.

There is a verse I love from 2 Cor 2:15~

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

Notice it doesn’t say “stench.” It’s that beautiful, lingering perfume that makes people say “hmmm… what was that?” or makes people want to know more and stay with you just a little longer. If you are the stench of Christ, you could do more damage that will take more to untangle and undo.

The aroma of Christ comes from living the Gospel – treating others with a self-less love, of serving, of going last in a line and not insisting on first dibs for things. It’s allowing someone to take a parking spot at the mall and not careening in, yelling things with your cross dangling from the rear-view mirror. This is not easy to do – especially with the Christmas mall rush. However, I think it’s in these small, daily things that Christ is revealed to others.

May the amazing LOVE of God’s sacrifice be true for you this week as you look towards celebrating the birth of Christ Jesus.

MY Dad’s Chair

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. ~Rev 3:21
King Henry VIII

When I was around 12 years old, my dad invited all of us to come and visit him in his new office in Rancho Cordova, CA. He had just received a major promotion with GTE and bragged to us about having his own executive assistant. None of this means much to a young child, but still, I was excited to see where my dad drove to daily. My mom, two sisters and I drove up to see my dad and his new office. I wasn’t too impressed until he came out to the lobby to meet us and began to show us around his office. Everyone knew him as “the Manager” & “head honcho” so I saw very quickly that he was an important man!

He led us all the way up to his office, which was located in a corner with two full walls of windows. He had an impressive mahogany desk and an equally impressive huge leather chair. Both were quite imposing and spoke to his status in the organization. My dad gleefully got in his chair and from behind his desk, looked at his three girls standing in his office. It was a bit daunting and awkward for me to picture my very own dad as someone really important… Who knew?

He must have sensed this in me because he looked right at me and patted his leg to come and sit in his lap. I didn’t need any further invitation. I quickly ran around his desk and jumped into his lap. He let me mess with the phone buttons, open and close drawers, etc. it was a neat feeling to be so close to a man so revered by others and so loved by me.

I am studying revelation in Bible Study Fellowship right now and in last week’s lesson, we covered the verse (on top) from Revelation 3:21. I am still pondering it after so many days. I knew the other verses in the  Bible that say we are co-heirs and that we may approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) and things like that, but I did NOT know that Jesus actually invites us to sit with him on his throne!

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:16

Can you even imagine that?

My first thought was “why?” Why would the Lord of the Universe invite me to sit on the throne from where he rules? Ridiculous! That doesn’t even sound right. In the Muslim mindset, God is way up there and you are not even fit to be around him. He is the Master and you are the servant. In fact, God is not present with you in Paradise. He rules above it. He wouldn’t demean himself and come hang out with the humans. Never.

Never… Unless you understand who Jesus is and what He has done for us. He is the one who came down to be with us, not us trying to reach God or the heavens. This is the thing you will not find in any religion. In fact, Jesus is not interested in religion but is completely interested in a relationship. He calls us to trust Him as the Good Shepherd who will lay his life down for his sheep. He is the widow who will turn her house upside down to find the lost coin. He is the merchant who will sell all he has to find the Pearl of great price. He is not interested in a checklist of rules, but is more interested in the condition of your heart.

He is the loving Father who calls us “little ones” and tells us to bring our burdens to him. He is the sweet and loving Father who will one day pat his lap and tell you to come and sit with Him, the King of Kings and Lord of lords, on His throne. Not as a slave or servant, but as His beloved child, created in His image. There, He will wipe away every tear from your eyes.

What a beautiful picture of love and redemption. What a beautiful Savior. Amen.