Contend Earnestly: January 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Personal Challenge to You: It Could Change Your Life

As I have started to journey down this odd road of seeking out more understanding of Islam and Muslims, it has been very interesting the response I have gotten from Christians. I have read many books on both sides. Both sides meaning, those who are trying to reach out to Muslims in the Muslim nations and those who seem to know nothing of Islam besides the usual Western straw man arguments. I have sought out both sides, and will continue to do so. I have found some things within Islam that of course bothers me a bit and I am seeing where our true differences truly are. To be honest, our differences are a lot less than most Western Christians understand, or even care to know. I guess at this point, I just want to issue a challenge to all Christians in the U.S. and in the U.K. that read my blog. This challenge is the one that I have learned the most about when reading from those men who have dared to go to these Muslim nations to reach people for Jesus. I find it to be the most important challenge I could issue to those who say they love and have submitted their lives to Jesus.

It is found through the words of Jesus himself:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

Have we not heard in this country over and over to love our neighbors (friends) and hate those who are our enemies? Haven't we been sold on this idea that we should take people to court, defend ourselves, kill or be killed, etc.?

Do we care what Jesus said and taught? Or do we want to live in our culture and let it guide our responses? This sentiment is what I have found as I have posted many articles on my findings on Islam. First response from many Christians has been highly hateful, lying, misleading and plain despising those people who call themselves Muslims. For one, I don't believe that they are our enemies. But, if you consider them enemies, you might want to start thinking about how you respond to them. Do you respond with love and prayer? Not, "God, I pray that they would become Christians and stop being stupid." But, pray for them how Jesus told us to pray for them. Look at how Jesus tells us to pray for them and treat them:

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Luke 6:27-28

Jesus tells us to not only love them and pray for them, but we are to bless them and do good to them. If you consider Muslims our enemy, are you asking God to bless them? Are you trying to do good to them? Are you loving them? Or, is your response to them more like what the Jews said to Jesus, "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” I just have to say that the responses I have seen and heard from my fellow "Christians" have been as harsh and polarizing as what the Jews said about their enemy in Jesus and the Samaritans. But, this isn't what Christ has called us to.

Jesus calls those who say are his followers to love, pray for, bless and do good to our enemies. Jesus even goes further in Luke and says that we should offer our enemies loans without expecting to be paid back (which is another way to say to give our money away to our enemies).

And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
Luke 6:34-35

I love the end of verse 35. Jesus reminds us that God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. That is you and I! How are we to reach out to the Muslims, or our enemies, if we don't even try to live the way Christ has called us to? God has been good to us, yet we hate our enemies? Do I really need to tell you (and myself) that we are the one who has been forgiven much, but doesn't forgive the smallest debt when we do this?

We like to say that Muslims don't believe Jesus is the Son of God (read this great article on this subject), but how can we say we believe, when we don't try and live like Jesus? When we draw straw men? When we ostracize the Muslim? Call them all terrorists and haters of God? When we aren't even willing to be friends with Muslims and reach out to them in love and blessing?

Sorry to say, but if we are not reaching out to Muslims and loving, praying for and blessing them, how can we expect them to ever actually love Jesus? Why would they want to become like us, when we don't show ourselves to be "Theophiluses" or "lovers of God"?

I fear that we, as Christians, have practically lived so evil and hateful against the Muslims, that they rightly think that the Bible must be corrupted. Because the Jesus in the Qur'an is peaceful, loving and miraculous among his enemies. Yet, we call ourselves followers of Jesus and only show Muslims hate. What are they supposed to believe? What is your neighbor supposed to believe? What are your enemies supposed to believe? What does Jesus think of this? Their conclusion is that the Bible that Westerners read is corrupted because the way that they live looks nothing like the Jesus in the Qur'an.

I think our hatred for our enemies, might show the reality of our hearts. Because of this, I don't see why any Muslim, or enemy of ours, thinks anything besides bad things about us and desire nothing from us or our religion we call "loving and peaceful".

How about we do something crazy, and try living against our cultural norms and decide to reach out and love, pray for, bless, and do good to our enemies? Or was Jesus just too radical to actually follow?

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

10 Dangerous Myths About Islam and Muslims

In preparation for tomorrow's free web event, Why Do You Fear Me?, I took this from Carl Medearis' site to give some more insight to Islam. I can't stress enough how much you should, at least, sign up for the event so you can watch it either live, or afterwards. You don't need to agree with everything, as I am sure I won't, but it is going to be a great event that will hopefully help break down some barriers between us and the Muslim world. To register, click here. I also put up a video of Medearis explaining the event...I have put this up before. To get an idea of some topics that will be discussed, you can vote on their facebook page on questions that people want answered. Click here to get to that page.

10 Dangerous Myths About Islam and Muslims

1. Islam is a religion of violence. By definition, if you’re a Muslim, then the natural and obvious working out of your religion is to be violent.

Islam as a religious system has not been any more violent than Christianity or Judaism. In the name of these three religions, much harm has been done. No one would accuse “Christianity” as being violent because of the actions of the KKK, yet they call themselves “Christian.” So we cannot blame the actions of less than 1% on the whole of Islam.

2. Muslims are backward in general. They don’t have a complex or high culture.

Some of the greatest contributions to society, even Western society, has come from Islamic countries. Most historians acknowledge that the Western Renaissance which began in Italy in the 1400’s had it’s roots in the early Arab Renaissance headquartered in Baghdad. Science, math and literature have deep roots in the Arab Muslim world of the Middle Ages.

3. Muslims are Arabs. Or…Arabs are Muslims.

Of the 1.4 Billion Muslims, only about 280 million speak Arabic as their first language. The largest Muslims countries are Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is true that the Arab world still holds the greatest influence on the rest of Islam since the Qur’an is in Arabic and the holiest sites are all found in the Arab Middle East.

4. Muslims believe in Allah, a false God and they follow Muhammad.

No Muslim would say they “follow Muhammad.” And the only word for “God” in Arabic is Allah. All Arab Christians worship “Allah.” So it’s a silly argument based on semantics. For more on this, read my book “Muslims, Christians and Jesus.”

5. Islam teaches Muslims to kill Christians and Jews.

There is not a single command in the Qur’an for Muslims to go out and kill Christians or Jews. In fact quite the opposite. Read the Qur’an for yourself. The best version and easiest to read in English is the one published by Oxford Press.

6. Muslims cannot integrate into Western societies because Islam is incompatible with Democracy.

There is no reason to think Islam and Democracy are incompatible. Many Muslims countries have a form of Democracy. There are some political and social realities that make good Democracy difficult, but it doesn’t have to do with Islam.

7. Islam is a cult, not a true mono-theistic religion like Judaism or Christianity.

Islam, Christianity and Judaism have always been called the three great Monotheistic religions.

8. Muslims go along with their teachers and don’t think for themselves.

Islam is incredibly complex with many “versions” like Christianity. Muslims are no more inclined to “go along” with what their teachers say then western Christians are.

9. Islam is against Jesus. They don’t believe in Him.

Ask any Muslim “Do you believe in Jesus” and they are likely to burst into a smile and start telling you how much they love him. We agree, that there are points of misunderstanding, some of which are significant, but that doesn’t mean they don’t “like him.”

10. Muslims resist modernization.

If Muslims resist modernization, they do so only because they see the evils of the west and don’t want them. Things like gangs, pornography, divorce and such are seen as “Western Values” and those are incompatible with Islam.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tim Tebow's Super Bowl Ad

Coming up on Super Bowl Sunday, as you are filling your mouth with meat, cheese, chips and adult beverages, one ad might stick out as a lot different than the usual funny ads showing monkeys trading stocks (which is more realistic than you might think), half naked girls all over the nerd using Axe body spray or the baby talking about beating shankopotamus in golf. Tim Tebow, along with his mom, will be in a commercial promoting pro life with the backing of Focus on the Family. Not much is being said about the content of the ad, and so we'll have to watch it to see what it entails. But, much speculation is that Tebow's mom will basically giving the message that, "I was told to abort Tim because of an illness while on a mission's trip in the Philippines, but I didn't, and now look at him...he is good at throwing a ball made of cow."

I want to just go through some thoughts on this overall process of having this ad run. These are my thoughts, you can either agree, disagree, cringe or decide.

The Good

Tebow, whether you like football, or sports in general, is a huge name in today's sports world. He gets pub like no other. He is portrayed as the player that any collegiate program would drool over. He is very talented in sports, a very good leader and very well behaved inside and outside the classroom. I will be honest. I hate him for beating my Sooners a couple of BCS Championships ago and would probably take a bat to his knee if I ever saw him, but other than that...he is a great guy.

Throughout his time in the spotlight, he has used it to promote Jesus. Whether it was after game interviews, verses on his eye black or just being seen helping kids in the Philippines on mission's trips. The fact is, it looks like Tebow actually does love Jesus, and doesn't mind speaking up about his convictions. I do admire his love for Jesus and showing that winning doesn't affect his love for Christ, as seen in his interviews after a loss. All this to say, after he smacked my Sooners, I have had to practice loving my enemy.

The good for this ad is that it is speaking on a subject that needs to be out there. We need to remind people that the decisions that they make in regards to human life has real affects. People who watch Tebow run around the field with a ball made of cow and paint their chest and freak out when the 22 year old crosses a 6 inch white line after 100 yards, need to understand that this real life was at a crossroads 22 years ago, when Tebow's parents decided that it was God's will to keep the child, instead of discard him like an unwanted wart on the end of your thumb. We need to remember, when speaking of abortion, we aren't speaking of a piece of a woman's body that is merely a wart, or a deformation, but we are speaking of another life. The woman can do whatever she wants with her body, but when that affects another, someone needs to speak up and tell her what she is doing. That is the good with this ad.

The Bad

Here are some of the issues I have with this ad. I hope the ad isn't what I think it will be. Which is, "Look I didn't abort my boy and he plays football real good. If you keep your kid, maybe he will make a lot of money for you too someday." This message is empty and very transparent. Already, sports radio was speaking of it this morning and could see right through the message. I would find it far more reaching if Tebow and his mom used this stage, even if it is only 30 seconds, to show off those who are like the rest of us, who are like normal Americans, or worse off. What about all those kids who are saved from abortions and grow up on welfare, with a drug addicted mom and never make out of the ghetto? Are they worth saving? Do they possess the Imago Dei? Or, is it only worth it now that Tebow can put eye black on his face and put John 3:16 on them? This message will be empty if the message isn't one of the equality we have in the eyes of God. That every child is worth saving, because God has given them a soul and made in His image.

A lot of moms that are struggling at home to keep food on the table, will scoff at a rich woman showing off her decision on TV, as they will see her life really had no struggles (which probably isn't true either). In the end, those who should be affected for good, could be affected for contempt towards the ad. The people who should be ultimately affected by an ad like this is the mothers who are making these tough decisions everyday. But, I fear that this ad, will be more of an ad to give the conservative Christian something to hang their hat on and shove in other's faces as a proof of why abortion is wrong. Because, the Christian will buy into this ad and say, "See how Tebow turned out! You should hate abortion too because we might be killing the good kids that will make a difference on Saturdays for 3 hours. Don't you want to paint your chest and scream real loud?" I cringe when I think about this.

The other problems I find with this ad, is the fact that the organization putting it out, Focus on the Family, is saying this about the ad:

There’s nothing political and controversial about it (click here for full story in the NY Times)

This is dumb. This is very political and Focus on the Family knows it. They have been more about politics than Jesus for a long time and are now lying to make sure the ad doesn't get cut from the Super Bowl. It's sad that they desire to make these kind of stupid comments to try and validate it.

Not only this, but I pray that Tebow himself doesn't allow himself to be put on such a stage that his own sanctification becomes a fraud. I am not saying this is what is happening, but I just hope he has those in his life that he can confess his sin to and still grow and press himself into Christ. We have to make sure that we, as followers of Jesus, don't make Tebow a Messiah for the Christian movement. We need to know he is merely a man and will fail. He needs to be allowed to fail. But, the problem is that we aren't a very forgiving community when our leaders fail. Just look at what happens when people like Amy Grant, Kirk Franklin or Ted Haggard fail. What happens is that they get so big, they know they can't fail, they can't have sin, they can't have temptations, and so they eventually fail very publically and very severely and are then ostracized by the Christian community instead of being embraced and shown grace in the cross of Christ. I pray this doesn't happen to Tebow, but I fear we are allowing that to happen.

I am interested to see the ad. I hope it isn't what I think it will be about. I pray it is more about the everyday struggles of the everyday woman making a very difficult decision on a life in the womb. I pray that it will not promote hierarchy, but will promote equality of life found in the grace of God through the Imago Dei and the cross of Christ.

Note: The woman's group that is trying to protest this ad sounds really stupid for their reasons for desiring this ad to not run. I wonder if they speak up this loudly when half naked girls sell beer and body sprays. Plus, this quote from the woman's group is humorous:

By offering one of the most coveted advertising spots of the year to an anti-equality, anti-choice, homophobic organization, CBS is aligning itself with a political stance that will damage its reputation, alienate viewers, and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers

As if that statement doesn't divide? Pretty ironic statement...thanks for not dividing and being above reproach...funny.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Haiti Devastation Presentation

This is the description given at the site:

These Images were taken by Churches Helping Churches on a relief effort and fact-finding mission to Port-Au-Prince Haiti less than a week after a devastating earthquake. We want to thanks Amway, and International Aid for making this possible. Please use this video and our media content to help raise awareness and resources for those who are suffering.

To donate to Churches Helping Churches, click here.

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Mostest Weirdest Bible Stories: No. 9

Coming in at number 9 is a story very familiar with most of us. I have to include it, because it is really odd. I will say that it is only at number 9 because it is so well known. If it wasn’t its own book and if Christ had not mentioned it in the New Testament, it might be a little less known and a little more shocking for its weirdness.

It’s Jonah being swallowed by the great fish.

Most know the story, and that is probably the only reason we don’t turn our head at it like a bad accident on the freeway. But, let me repeat. There is a story where a dude gets swallowed by a big fish, lives in the fish’s belly for three days and three nights, while in the fish, has time to contemplate his sin, prays to God while sitting in a stomach filled with who knows what, and then gets thrown up on the beach. Seriously. Again, if it wasn’t in all our children’s Bible’s with nice pictures of Jonah having a great time in the belly, with a ton of room to move around in, we would honestly scratch our heads a little more at this one.

There is much mystery in how this could possibly be true, but the fact is, it happened. Not only was it put forth as being from the mouth of God in the Old Testament to the Jewish faith, but Jesus uses it as an analogy of how he will be in the belly of the earth, as Jonah was in the belly of the whale. Jesus is the greater Jonah
(Matthew 12:40; Luke 11:32).

I’ll give a quick synopsis of the story and then try and show why we are to still preach the story today to show off the glory of God.

A prophet of God, named Jonah, which ironically means “dove” in the Hebrew, that would connotate peace and reconciliation, is called to go to the worst of the nations, the Ninevites. When thinking of those in Ninevah, think of the people you hate the most, that you find the most repulsive. For a lot of people today, this would be homosexuals, prostitutes, terrorists, transvestites, bums, rapists, and Republicans. Jonah, the dove, refuses to extend an olive branch and preach redemption to Ninevah and instead flees to Tarshish. God, who controls everything, decides (remember this is a synopsis, so don’t get caught up in me skipping a lot of details) that His Dove started to fly the wrong way and it says that God “appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.” After Jonah repents, and remembers that he is a dove instead of a chicken, God humorously has the huge fish vomit him up on a beach. Jonah then goes (note: probably a long walk and he has been in a belly where decomposing fish and other sea life are. This is probably to give Jonah insight of what it means to be repulsive) to the Republicans, I mean Ninevites, and preaches redemption. Ninevah repents and is saved from the wrath of God. Jonah gets pissed that God showed mercy, like any good Pharisee would, and we never learn that happens in the end in regards to Jonah.

But, the best part is that God has the last word and simply asks, “Should I not have compassion on Ninevah…?”

If you’ve only read the book of Jonah while seeing it in an illustrated kid’s Bible, I would recommend you put on big boy pants, stop playing video games, put down the popsicle and read the Bible without pictures. The reason is that many truths are found in this short book of 4 chapters.

We see in the book of Jonah:

- God’s ultimate sovereignty
- God’s desire for all nations and all peoples to be saved
- God’s humor
- Man’s responsibility
- Reconciliation
- God’s grace
- God’s mercy
- God’s love for his enemies
- A shadow of the greater Prophet and Redeemer; Jesus

I have had heard some of the worst preaching points on this short book. I have heard that this book is about obeying God. I have actually had conversations, err…arguments, over this. This book is NOT about obeying God. Preachers love to use this book as an illustration of:

Don’t be like Jonah or bad things happen and God doesn’t love you. But, if obey God and do what he says, God is pleased and you are showing your sanctification.

There is a word for this kind of preaching and teaching. Paul uses this same word in Philippians 3:8 and I’ll let you translate the term how you want. But, this preaching is “skubalon”. What we need to glean from this Old Testament story, is the truth of God’s revelation, both in narrative and normative formats, that God has a plan of redemption for all peoples through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for His glory. This story isn’t about how you shouldn’t be like Jonah. If anyone preaches like this, please run away to save your soul.

What is interesting is that this whole story of Jonah is a parallel to the story of Jesus, the greater Jonah.

As Jonah is called to go from his home and preach reconciliation to the sinners, but first must go into the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, so is Jesus.

Jesus, left his home to incarnate himself among the peoples of the earth. Jesus is greater because he does not disobey God, nor does he show resistance, but he gladly chooses to leave his heavenly home and come down to us.

Jesus, unlike Jonah, willingly goes to the cross and death for three days and three nights. Like Jonah, Jesus is resurrected from death. Unlike Jonah, Jesus does it by HIS power, which is the power of God the Father (Acts 2:24-32), God the Son (John 2:19) and God the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11; 1 Peter 3:18). Meaning, Jesus raises himself by his power, by his willingness.

Like Jonah, Jesus is called to go to the sinner and preach the Gospel for redemption for the glory of God. Unlike Jonah, Jesus loves the sinner and can’t wait for them to repent and come to him. Unlike Jonah, Jesus loves even when one sinner repents, much less 120,000.

As one can see, although the story of Jonah being swallowed by the great fish is an odd one, the truths and foreshadowing found in the story is astonishing. This small book, points to the larger theme of the Bible. The fact that: God redeems to himself a people, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit, for His glory. This story shows what Jesus says to be true in Luke 11:32, that Jesus is the greater Jonah.

“The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
Luke 11:32

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mark Siljander Interview on Islam and Christianity

I recently read Mark Siljander's book called, A Deadly Misunderstanding, and put up a review. I found these two videos where Siljander gives some of his thoughts on his findings. I think it helps to hear Siljander speak about what he has written, and shows his enthusiasm for Jesus Christ to be made known. I highly recommend watching these as they are a great intro to his book. I will also say that Mr. Siljander is someone that I continue to gain more and more respect for as we have had a chance to have some email exchanges. Any comments regarding your thoughts on these videos, or anything Mr. Siljander has said or written, is welcomed.

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World Relief: The Church's Finest Hour

This is the organization that my church, Harambee, is supporting. Please consider giving to their cause. May we pray diligently and give abundantly.

To Donate: World Relief

Live Updates: World Relief on Twitter

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Churches Helping Churches: Video with Driscoll and McDonald from Haiti

Here are three videos from Haiti with Pastor Mark Driscoll and Pastor James McDonald. Here is the web site for the relief oranization that they have started.

Churches Helping Churches

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When the Calvinist Becomes a Practical Arminian

I have found it interesting throughout my journey as a follower of Jesus and specifically, a Calvinist, the ways in which I have found my own "kind" sounding and acting more like the Arminian, than what our doctrines shouldcall us to be. There are two ways I have found this to be true most blatantly in my Calvinistic brothers (and much in myself): Theological Discussion and Evangelism.

Even more specifically in these discussions is the glaring difficulty the Calvinist seems to have with our own doctrine of God's sovereignty. I believe we need to repent and start acting like good Calvinists. We love to say that Calvinism leads one to complete humility, but to be honest, I see more pride in Calvinistic people, than humility. The reason that Calvinism SHOULD drive us to humility is the understanding of man's condition and understanding that God is so sovereign that he doesn't need our wisdom or works, but has decided to work through them, spefically preaching, to bring the sinner to Jesus.

But, why doesn't this Calvinistic orthodoxy actually follow in our Calvinistic orthopraxy? Here is what I mean.

This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.
Titus 3:8-11

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6

In our dealings with other cultures and peoples in evangelism and gospel living, we shouldn't feel as though we have to have every answer, nor should we feel as though we have to give every available answer to the hearer/discusser all at once. We should rest in the fact that God is sovereign and that his Spirit is truly at work. We should truly be humble with the sinner, knowing how to engage them where they are and how much to engage them with. As a Calvinist, we should be able to give some truth, not all at once, depending on the situation and the true urging of the Spirit, not the urging of our self glorifying pride. We should allow the Spirit to engage each person where THEY are, not where WE WANT them to eventually be.

This doesn't mean to purposely hold back for the sake of holding back, but we need to know when to lay off of our fire hose of orthodoxy and allow God to work on their heart, instead of acting like we are both the scalpel and the surgeon on the sinner's heart. We need to remember that we are merely the axe (Isaiah 10:15) and must allow God to be the one that receives all the credit instead of our own intellect or source of timing of giving the sinner knowledge of his Maker. We should allow God to decide when to strike the wood and when to lay the axe aside. While in conversation, don't feel like you have to correct every error made by the other's involved, but act like you actually believe in God's sovereignty and have real conversations in love.

Not only this, but remember that God is at work on Christians as well. We need to remember Phil 1:6 and act like we believe it. When speaking to those who do not agree with Calvinistic doctrines, it makes more sense to show them (live them out) our doctrines than beat them over the head with them, which shows zero understanding of humility or God's sovereignty. When we do this, we act like we are God's sanctification expert, sent to correct those other dumb people. When you get into debates, where you try and correct every error, you sound really dumb. First, these debates have been happening for centuries, and you think you are the new Martin Luther attacking the Wittenburg door of the Arminian. There is so much pride just within those kinds of debates, that you will drive the Arminian away instead of pressing them into Jesus. We should strive to press everyone into Jesus, including ourselves, knowing he is the one full of truth, full of wisdom, full of God and full of rest and sanctifying power. Why do you feel it is your job to sanctify the Arminian? You aren't being a peacemaker, nor are you being one who exudes Christlikeness, but you end up looking like a prideful ass, who looks like they hate their "enemy" instead of loving them.

I just ask my Calvinist brothers to please start living out what we believe to be truth.

Be humble. Trust Jesus. Be ready to speak. Be ready to listen. Let Jesus sanctify. Side're not Jesus.

I'll leave it at that, and trust that Jesus will speak to some through this post and start sanctifying us all to his side for his glory.

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DJ Official: Entermission

I received the latest CD from Reach Records in the mail about a week ago. I wasn't sure what to expect, but figured that with 18 different tracks and over 20 artists featured, it would be hard to be disappointed. The CD is called "Entermission" by DJ Official. DJ Official is the deejay for the Reach family and this compilation shows off his skills in putting together tracks for all sorts of talents and genres. What I found was that, for the most part, I was very impressed with some of the tracks laid down by the "lesser known" guys in the world of Christian hip hop. What the listener will realize right off the bat is that you get all kinds of tracks when listening to the album. Which, because of this, some will really enjoy some tracks while wondering how others made the album at all. This is not to say that the tracks are weak, but just so different stylistically that it could be of less interest to some while more interest to others. But, this shouldn't be a surprise with an album that has a compilation of artists. Also know, this isn't an album with a bunch of remixes. From what I know of these tracks, most (besides one) are completely new.

Here is the list of tracks, including their artists, on the CD:

1. Enter The Mission - Dr. Eric Mason, DJ Official, R-Swift
2. Show Off - Lecrae & Flame
3. Use Me - Tedashii
4. Streets of New York - J.A.Z. & Magellen
5. Get Busy - Trip Lee
6. Go - H.G.A. & Tedashii
7. Not My Own - Stephen The Levite, Phanatik, Evangel
8. Love Fallen - Gems, Jahaziel, Benjah, Dillavou
9. Nothing Without You - JR & Lecrae
10. Chaos - Sho Baraka
11. Chisel Me - Thi'sl, Json, K-Drama, Tedashii
12. On My 116 - Lecrae, Tedashii, Sho Baraka, Trip Lee
13. Streets of Philadelphia - Mac The Doulos, Young Joshua, Ackdavis, R-Swift
14. Missio Dei - God's Servant
15. Forward Me - Cam
16. Outro (Thank You)
17. (bonus) For My Breakers
18. (bonus) Eyes Open Remix - Trip Lee & Sho Baraka

I will say that two tracks stuck out to me, and honestly believe, that if it wasn't for the biblical content, could be on mainstream radio right now. One is Streets of New York featuring J.A.Z. & Magellen, which DJ Official mixes in some great stringed instruments. The other has an R&B feel with Nothing Without You featuring JR & Lecrae. These two, by far, are my favorite tracks on the album.

One will also notice something completely different from Sho Baraka on track 10 with his song called Chaos. I had no clue it was Sho, and was shocked to find it was. It was more rough around the edges, and one that I ended up enjoying after the befuddled look left my face.

I think overall that the album is definitely a win and one that brings Reach's background man, DJ Official, to the forefront. Not only that, but the album exposes some other talents that might be less known to some. If you are a Reach Records fan, this album will not disappoint. Be ready to hear many different styles, including a raggae feel from track 8 titled, Love Fallen, featuring Gems, Jahaziel, Benjah, & Dillavou.

Not only were the tracks well laid out by DJ Official, but the lyrics follow the lead of the title of the CD so that the listener hears throughout what it means to truly Enter Mission.

Highly Recommended

Links to Buy:

Reach Records


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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Using Hip Hop to Mentor: Celestine

When I first started going to my new church, Harambee, one of the pastors had announced that a hip hop artist named Celestine was going to be coming up from L.A. to partner with our after school program (the after school program gets about 125 youth every day from Renton High School, which is one of the most racially diverse schools in Washington state). I was excited to see what he was going to be doing, but still, when you hear of Christian and Hip Hop together, most of the time it just doesn't work. Not only is the video below top notch, but so is the song. Celestine, and his wife Tara, are still adjusting to life in Seattle and ministering to the youth, but the stories of mentorship are already very exciting. I am very excited to get the chance to possibly help them out by doing some design work and have really enjoyed getting to know them for the past 6 months. If you want to know more about their ministry, check them out at Celestine Rap. (also consider supporting their cause through prayer and financial support)

Here is a quick bio of Celestine off of his website:

Celestine Ezinkwo was born in Africa in 1984. He is a singer and a dancer and spent most of his time singing in the church choir, worked as a hip-hop choreographer and served the oppressed. He lived in Nigeria until he was 19 years old. In 2003 he moved to America to further pursue his musical abilities as a rapper. Since living in America he has discovered his strong passion is to liberate the oppressed through rap music and educating his listeners on how they can be proactive in making a change and helping kids and women around the world. Celestine has been on MTV Asia and worked with different musicians and organizations that are passionate about ending injustices around the world. Celestine’s heart is to CRY OUT for those that can’t cry out for themselves and to make a change partnering with others who have the resources and the passion to free kids and women around the world from the oppression they face on a daily basis. “Speak up for those that can’t speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”(Proverbs 31:8-9)

Expect me to really be doing some major hype for his album that should be coming out sometime in the Spring or Summer of this year.

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9 Mostest Weirdest Stories of the Bible

I figured I would change things up some. I have not been able to have fun on the blog in a while as I have been doing a lot of posts and studies on Muslim/Christian relations. Hardly appropriate to drop funny lines when speaking of that topic. But, being that I like to both study the Bible and write humorously, I am trying to figure out why I haven't done this before. If you are new to this blog, I apologize ahead of time on my humor and writing style as I embark on this odd blog series. If you want to get used to what this might look like, I would tell you to take a look at my blog series called, "10 Steps to Become a Legalist." Which, I have to be honest, was one of my favorite blog series I have ever done. And, oddly, a pastor of a pretty large church in Alabama asked to use those blog posts for a sermon series.

My goals for this series are the following:

1. Have some fun and make you laugh. I am what some would call, an equal opportunity basher. I will make fun you at some point in this series. Please laugh. I will make fun of myself probably more. Please pray for my self-deprecating attitude with my idiosyncrasies.

2. Get people excited about the Old Testament. Let's be honest. Most people don't read the Old Testament unless their Sunday School teacher forces them to study through it to prove something. We all know that these teachers are usually monotone, and seem to take pleasure in picking out the most dry passages in the Old Testament and then taking two years going through them. All the while, feeling like he is more righteous because he gleans so much from these passages as you try and keep your head from bobbing while falling asleep. Probably why the Southern Baptists created the "quarter system" for Sunday School.

3. Get people to worship God and his glory through these passages. Most teachers are clueless on what the Old Testament is really about and how it connects with the overall story of God and His glory. The above mentioned baby sitters, I mean "teachers", love to tell you how to make yourself more like David or less like David, depending on the passage. They love to give you a list to follow so your faith can be like David's, or give you a list to follow so you don't murder a woman's husband after you have sex with her because you are a peeping Tom watching her take a bath. What these teachers miss, is that maybe these stories are telling us more about the glory of God, than how we can better ourselves.

So, these are my thoughts on why I want to go through these passages. Why 9? Because 9 is a strange number with no secret biblical code to unlock. At least I haven't found it to be one of yet with the bible code detector ring from my Rob Bell: You too can have faith like Peter's, Wheaties' box.

I also want to include you, the reader, to help me out. What are some weird stories that you have read in the Bible that you have no idea why they are there and have no idea how they would point to the glory of God. Or, are just plain odd and you think are funny. Because lets be honest...funny brings readers. Readers bring comments. Comments bring...well nothing really because I do this stupid blog for free and have never made a penny doing it. But, comments make me feel important, and might get me a Sunday School gig at your local 4th First Baptist Church.

So, either comment here, hit me up on twitter or Facebook or email me what weird stories you would like to see in this countdown of sorts.

Hopefully this will be a great series that will be enjoyable for everyone involved. And, I hope to make fun of you...a lot. But only so you see your weirdness and look more to Jesus.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Deadly Misunderstanding :::UPDATED:::

**After posting my review, Mark Siljander was kind of enough to write me an email and tell me that some others have had some of the same "issues" as I did with the book. Because of this, Mr. Siljander, in the 2nd edition of the book is going to make some changes. He also was kind enough to tell me that this book was written to both the Christian and Mulsim. Because of this, some things can seem more "soft" for the Christian, when not intending to be. I appreciate the humility that is shown by Siljander, one that is not found that often in authors today. We have had a good exchange between each other, and one that I pray will continue. I also hope to be able to get together with him if he makes it up here to Seattle, to hear more of the amazing work that Jesus is doing through him. Again, I highly recommend the book.

A Deadly Misunderstanding by Mark D. Siljander, is challenging and pushes your comforts past where you would like. The full title for the book is, A Deadly Misunderstanding: A Congressman's Quest to Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide. Not only is this a title of a book, but the title of Mr. Siljander's life. Siljander is one that will surprise you. He is a white, Republican, conservative, Evangelical, from Michigan. He breaks the stereotype fully, when you read his quest. But, he is honest where the quest started, which is one where he used to hate Islam so much, and spoke out against them so profusely, that Yasser Arafat had a hit put out on him. He really started out where the majority of Evangelical Christians find themselves today. I found the opening to the book one that I can personally relate with:

Many years later, after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when Christian leaders began denouncing Islam and the Qur'an from pulpits and radio stations across America, their litany of vitriol and hysteria was both frightening and yet oddly familiar.

Back in 1984, what I didn't realize was that I was also a hostage, held captive by my own ignorance and fear-much like the fear that has held so much of the world hostage since the events of 9/11. And while I could not have remotely suspected it at the time, that same letter of protest would trigger a series of encounters that would eventually shake me loose from the beliefs that held me there. (p.11)

The book is about the quest of a congressman (mostly as his time as a former congressman) who wasn't content at being ignorant. Siljander took this urge seriously as he spanned the globe meeting up with major leaders in the Islamic world to sit and speak to them about the divide between Muslims and Christians. Not only this, but he would be someone I would call (I doubt he would call himself this) a self trained genius. He so much wanted to truly befriend those from other nations that he learned Spanish, Hebrew, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, French, Italian, Portuguese, and then to specifically speak to those in the Arab and Muslim world, learned Arabic and Aramaic. He learned the former two to aid his quest to study the Qur'an and language that Christ most likely spoke in, Aramaic, to be able to seek out why these two Monotheistic faiths have been at each other's throats for so many years.

In this book, Siljander gives forth not only his life's quest of bridging this divide one relationship at a time, but also through showing some of his findings (exegetically) that break down some major walls between the two faiths. I will say that those he has spoken to in the Muslim world are quite impressive. These stories are amazing to read about, and truthfully should challenge all of us to consider our motives for relationships. Siljander over and over again, quite honestly, shatters any concepts one would have of a conservative Evangelical Republican congressman.

The reader is challenged, both Muslim and Christian (but mostly Christian) on their understanding of the Bible, Qur'an and how they interact, which is more than most think. Reading this book, had me going back and forth. At one point, I would smile and almost yell, "amen!", then I would find myself cringing because I felt a misstep was happening within Siljander's exegesis. And although Siljander does his best to convey this when stating,

What follows in these pages is not some new form of ecumenism or syncretism where Christians, Muslims, or anyone else is expected to give up cherished and long-held beliefs or creeds.

The problem is that I felt as though, at points, Siljander seemed to just that. The reason is because the centrality of the Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as God's atoning death for us and His glory. This seemed to be very light in the book and within his interactions with the Muslim world. He even, at one point, tries to bring these two faiths together on this point, but I believe he gives up too much in the understanding of orthodoxy within Christendom to make this work. So, at points, I feel as though Siljander sounds very syncretic, even though he starts trying to say he is not doing this. But, I will also say this. The written word can be misleading and very difficult to convey at times, especially on such touchy subjects as this. So, before I would say anything completely negative about Siljander and his path towards reconciliation, I would desire to sit down and ask him questions about these issues and what he has found as he has spoken to those of the Muslim faith.

So, with that in mind, would I recommend this book? Yes. Like any book about faith and dialogue, you must be discerning. Siljander doesn't even say "his way" is how everyone should handle themselves. But, he tells the story of how his journey and where his journey has taken him, both in his study and relationships. This, I highly commend him for sharing. This book will stretch anyone who reads it. There is so much "good" in this book and so much that the reader will realize about their own journey towards truth (if they are honestly trying to learn), that it is well worth the read. If you like where you are currently in your understanding of the world and are enjoying what is portrayed in American media, don't read this book. But, if you want to see what is actually happening elsewhere, what Muslims actually believe, what the Bible actually says in certain points and desire to be stretched, you need to read this book. You will learn much through Siljander's interactions with Muslim leaders and also with his interactions of great study through the Aramaic translation of the New Testament (which is a personal conviction with just that statement). You will learn such things as:

Who is Allah? What does this term have to do with the term "God"? (for an excerpt, click here)
What do Muslims understand of the Christian when we speak of the Son of God, Jesus' death and the Trinity?
What does the Qur'an say about Jesus and the spirit of God?
What is the Aramaic understanding of (this was one of my favorite parts):
- Camel through the eye of the needle (Matt 19:24)
- The Lord's Prayer, specifically on God leading us into temptation
- Jesus telling us to hate our family members (Luke 14:26)
- Heap burning coals on our enemy's head (Romans 12:20), etc.

As you can see, this book is jammed pack with data. It is only 222 pages, and flows in and out with exegesis and personal stories of his travels all over the world. It is very readable and very enjoyable and one that I couldn't put down. I read it in three days. It will have you saying "amen" one second, "no way!" the next and lastly just plain shaking your head in personal shame for your misunderstandings.

I ask you, please read this book and be challenged. Will you agree with everything in this book? Probably not. Will it stretch you more than other books you have read in the past? I would bet it will be in the top 5, if not the top book as far as its' challenges.

I have had a brief conversation with Mr. Siljander and I hope to have some more in the future. I pray that I get the chance to sit down with him and seek out his wisdom on how God continues to challenge him on the path he has been put on. Until then, I pray that my misunderstandings of others, are able to be broken down as I search out the truth in both Jesus and my relationships with others who aren't like myself.

I highly recommend this book.

May God be glorified.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Contend Earnestly Made Top 50 Christian Blogs

I have never visited this site, but I made the top 50 Christian blogs there. I am thinking it is in reverse order of importance, or intelligence, as I am listed at #4 (it's in no actual order, just in categories). Anyways...pretty cool. Have a great weekend.

Top 50 Evangelical Christian Blogs

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God? Part II

What Do the Scriptures Teach About Non-Trinitarian Peoples?

Hopefully you have seen what I mean when I say worship (again, not speaking of the term “to know”) and the fact that Allah is described in many of the same ways we would describe him. The one fact remains though: We (Christians and followers of Jesus) worship God, knowing God is triune in nature; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Remember that when seeking to find if Muslims or Jews worship the same God, we are not saying that they know him or are fully worshiping him in the manner that God desires. We even see this in the Old Testament when Isaiah is given the commandment to proclaim to Israel that they were not worshiping God in the way he desired, but this didn’t mean that they were not worshiping God, it just meant that their worship was in vain, or empty.

Then the Lord said,
“Because this people draw near with their words
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,

Isaiah 29:13

We see that Jesus quotes this same verse from Isaiah in Matthew 15:8, using the term “sebomai” to show forth the idea of “worship or fear” of God. If Jerusalem in the Old Testament wasn’t worshiping the true God, we have some real issues, as it is God himself who is speaking to Jerusalem and telling them “you are worshiping me incorrectly!” What God is not saying is that they are worshiping another god. What is being conveyed, in both the Old and the New, is the importance of worshiping God correctly, so that your mouth and your heart are near God, so that you may know God.

What I want to show is how the terms used for worship are used both of those who are true followers of Jesus and those who don’t know Jesus as God. If I am successful in this, one should be able to see that to say that “Muslims don’t worship the same God as Christians” is at least unhelpful, if not totally false.

Cornelius in Acts 10

When we come to Acts 10, a man named Cornelius is introduced to us. He is described in this way:

a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.

Acts 10:2

Understand that Cornelius is a Gentile and knows nothing of Jesus. The term “feared” used here is the term “phobeo” which Peter also uses in 1 Peter 2:17 when he tells believers to “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” As we mentioned above, this term for fear is closely related to the term worship. Not only this, but this passage gets very clear about this Gentile who knows nothing of Jesus Christ. It says in Acts 10:4 that the angel of the Lord that appeared to Cornelius states, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” I don’t know of any scholar, or even nominal Christian, who would say that prayer isn’t a part of worshiping God. What we find here is that a Gentile, who has yet to be converted to Jesus, or taught the triune aspect of God, is, and has been, worshiping the true God.

Cornelius’ total ignorance of what it means to truly worship and know God shows forth when Peter visits him to preach. When Peter approached Cornelius, Cornelius fell down and worshiped Peter!

So, although Cornelius is a Gentile, knowing nothing of Jesus, he worships/fears/prays to God and God hears him.

The First Convert in Europe, Lydia

The second example is found in Acts 16:14 when it states the following:

A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

In this passage, we find a woman in Europe who ended up submitting herself to Jesus. But, before she was surrendered her life, she is called a “worshiper of God.” This is before Paul had spoken the gospel to Lydia, and once she heard, her heart was opened and she responded. The term used here in the Greek is the term “sebomai.” Which, as we noted above, is used both to have a sense of “fear” and also “worship.” This term puts these two expressions in congruence with each other.

One might say at this point, “Yes, they are said to worship God, because once they heard the good news, they then converted to Jesus.” (I think that is quite a weak argument, but nevertheless, I will respond as though it were convincing) While this is true of both of the first two examples, this term “sebomai” is also used of people where we have no proof that they ever converted to be followers of Jesus

Here is a quick list of the verses that use this term “sebomai” in regards to those who are not shown to ever submit to Jesus:

‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ ”
Matthew 15:9

‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
Mark 7:7

So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.
Acts 17:17

In every one of these instances, we see that this Greek term “sebomai” is used for those who are worshiping God in ignorance, with no proof that they ever turned to Jesus. On the contrary, we also find the same term used, not only with Lydia, but with others who “feared” or “worshiped” God and then later (also used in the present tense) turned to Jesus.

Some of these could be argued from the text that we don’t even know if some of these people actually submitted to Jesus later, but I will put them in this context to avoid argument.

Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.
Acts 13:43

But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.
Acts 13:50

And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.
Acts 17:4

Then he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue.
Acts 18:7

saying, “This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.”
Acts 18:13

One can plainly see that throughout the Scriptures, the term “sebomai” which means to worship is used interchangeably with those who know the fullness of God through Jesus Christ, those who eventually come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and to those who we never see turning to Jesus. What we never see is the fact, that some would like to charge, that Jesus and the apostles ever told those who are worshiping God in the way they know him as, that they are worshiping another god.

If this term “sebomai” or “worship” or “God-fearers” can be used for those who don’t know Jesus in the New Testament, why can this term not be used in today’s context with Muslims?

Miscellaneous Thoughts on Worshiping God

I want to also point out a couple of other verses that support this understanding, but might not necessarily hold enough weight to convince as the above.

The first is found in Matthew 5:16

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

What we see is a command from Jesus to those who follow him, his disciples. He tells them that they should be light and salt, and to allow their works to be seen by men. Why? So that men will glorify their Father who is in heaven. It interesting because the term “glorify” is closely related to worship (1 to think, suppose, be of opinion. 2 to praise, extol, magnify, celebrate. 3 to honour, do honour to, hold in honour. 4 to make glorious, adorn with lustre, clothe with splendour. 4a to impart glory to something, render it excellent. 4b to make renowned, render illustrious. 4b1 to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged).

You’ll also notice that there is no distinction whether those that will glorify God are followers of Jesus or not. But, the fact remains, whether they love Jesus or not, they can glorify God who is in heaven, without knowing Him. Again, this would seem to show that although one doesn’t know God, they can still glorify and worship God.

The second is found in Acts 13:48 and has been much debate among Calvinists and Arminians, but we can also glean one other theological conclusion here.

When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

What you see here is Paul and Barnabas preaching to a group of Jews and Gentiles. The Jews reject the preaching, while it says that all the Gentiles present began to rejoice and glorify the word of the Lord. Again, we see this exact same term “glorify” or “doxazo.” You’ll notice that not all those who were rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord then believed; only those who were appointed to believe, believed. That would leave us to understand that there were some who rejoiced and glorified the word, without actually turning to Jesus.


I wrote this to simply ask those who continually say that “Allah” is a demon or that Islam worships another god, to see the reasoning from us who say that this isn’t the case. Although I don’t believe that Islam paints a complete picture of who God is, and what his attributes are, this doesn’t mean that they worship a completely different god altogether. Let me give an example before I conclude.

There were two men (Steve and David) who claimed to know another man (James) who lived in South Africa. As these two met each other in New York at a conference, they began speaking about this man James who lived in South Africa. David began to speak about James, but didn’t know him personally. He only knew a guy who claimed to know James and learned about James through him. Throughout the years, David sent James letters of thankfulness because of all the wisdom he was learning through his other friend. As David began to describe James to Steve, they seemed to be talking of the very same man. They both knew James to be quite funny, he had two sons, his wife had died giving birth to their second son and James, to both of them, was quite the business man. Then David said that James was pretty harsh in business, and disowned his second son after the son refused to get a job when he turned 18. Steve was quite perplexed. Steve told David, I actually live right next to James and I personally have known him for over 20 years. He actually isn’t harsh in business, but quite kind to all of his employees and very forgiving those who have been dishonest in their business dealings. Also, Steve said that James’ oldest son, decided to leave the house at the age of 18 on his own and James has been pursuing a relationship with him ever since. Then Steve asked, “Would you like to know James personally?” David quickly responded, “Yes, in fact I would”. Steve said, “Good, because he is coming to New York tomorrow, and you can start to personally know him.”
I know that this parallel is only helpful to a small degree. But, the understanding I am trying to get across is the one we should have with our Muslim friends. Although they might worship God, as David was sending letters to James, they don’t know God personally as we do, because of Jesus. Our job isn’t to tell the Muslim that they don’t worship another god, as it would have been very odd for Steve to tell David that he didn’t know the real James from South Africa. Our job is to lead them to the fullness of God, only known through Jesus Christ. Our job is to lovingly guide the Muslim to a complete understanding of the grace found in God, through the Messiah.

Remember, incomplete truth isn’t non-truth. It’s like saying, “sugar and flour” are ingredients of a cake. While true, this isn’t the complete ingredient list for a cake. We need to continue with the fullness of wisdom to show which ingredients have been left out, or which ones are wrong.

We should be like Paul at Mars Hill. We should find those things that are similar and then guide them to the fullness of truth. We should not burn those bridges that have already been built between the two faiths, but we should introduce Jesus to them through these bridges. Just as Paul did with the “unknown god” to the Greeks.

Let me remind the reader, that what I am trying to convey is the difference between worship and knowing God. Knowing is a very deep and personal term in both the Hebrew and the Greek. One can think of it this way:

All those who know God will worship God; All those who worship God, don’t necessarily know God.

May we continually seek ways to show all men the greatness of the Messiah, and ask them to seek out who Jesus was, is and will continue to be. May we do this in a constructive way, instead of a detrimental one.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:9

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God? Part I

When I first heard this question brought up to me, my thought was a simple, “No.” The reason that I gave was the fact that we, as followers of Jesus, worship the monotheistic, yet triune God of Abraham. If one does not believe that God is triune in nature, how can they worship the same as I, one who is a follower of Jesus? But, I quickly started to think this through. The reason was that Jews would give the same answer as a Muslim in regards to God, yet I would have a harder time to say that God’s chosen nation in Old Testament didn’t worship God, if they didn’t believe Him to be triune. Not only that, but I would have a hard time regarding those in contemporary Judaism as not worshiping the same God as I. Being that both the Muslim and Jew worship God, who is the One and only, if one is cast out as not worshiping God so shall the other. One can see the similarities in the two faiths, in their preeminent proclamation of them:

The Shema for the Jew, taken from Deuteronomy 6:4, states:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!

When the Muslim is asked what makes one a true Muslim, or one who is submitted to God, they will speak of their Shahada:

There is no god but God

So, as I started to think this through, I said, “If I say that Muslims do not worship the same God as I, then neither does the monotheistic Jew either.” Although this bothered me some, I still, nonetheless, decided to go to the Scriptures to see what it would say about those who did not believe Jesus to be God, and held that believing so, meant that God is more than one and was therefore being blasphemous.

I am going to go through this in steps to show what I am getting to. I will first distinguish between worshiping God and knowing God, then will show what Islam teaches about God or Allah, and then what the Scriptures speak of concerning those who do not know Jesus to be part of the Triune aspect of the Godhead.

Defining Worship, Not Knowing

Worshiping in the New Testament Greek is brought about in the terms “sebomai, proskuneo and latreuo .” These terms have the connotation of both a physical aspect and spiritual one. The physical aspect is brought out in the term, “proskuneo” which can either mean to “prostrate, kiss or bow” but also carries the idea of “deep reverence.” We see this term used in the most profound way when John uses it when quoting Jesus as saying,

“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

John 4:24

The next term that is translated as worship in the New Testament Greek is “sebomai” and has the idea of “revere, worship or one who is devout.” This term is translated in the NASB by using the terms “God-fearing, devout, worship and worshiper.” A couple of usages in the New Testament are found in Acts 13:50 and Acts 16:14 respectively:

But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.

A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

What one will notice is that the connection in these terms is the term, rendered in the English as, reverence. We will connect these further when looking at the Scriptures, but one other term that is very close to these two terms is the term “phobeo”, which means to “fear, to reverence or to be afraid.” So, when the Bible uses the term, “worship” there is some idea that reverential fear is being spoken of. Many times we see in the Scriptures that those who followed God were said, ‘to fear Him”. To give a reference that I will use later, Peter says in 1 Peter 2:17, “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”

What I want the reader to know is that I am not saying that all those who “worship” or “fear God” know God fully, or worship him in the way that God desires. Jesus tells us,

“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

Matthew 11:27

I want to make this distinction, because I don’t want to confuse the reader to think that I am saying that by worshiping God, one then knows God, therefore accessing heaven by a different means than Christ.

What Does Islam Believe About God?

First, this is not some Magnum Opus on the doctrines of the Islamic faith on Allah or God. I understand that most of my readers are Westerners with very little knowledge of the Qur’an, but have only heard Evangelical Polemics against Islam in regards to their understanding of God. My intent here is to show the similarities of the Qur'an with the Torah and New Testament, not to get into a debate about their practical wisdom of the terms they use.

Before we begin, some love to draw a very odd straw man against Islam by saying that “Allah” is a demon and should not be used as a term for calling on God. So much so, that they desire Muslim converts to Jesus to stop calling God, Allah. This is quite simply, very elementary and foolish. Mark D. Siljander, in his book, “A Deadly Understanding” puts the understanding quite well. He states:

What did the Semitic languages have to say about God and Allah? The answer proved fascinating.

In pre-Muhammadan times, Arabs worship a moon god called Hubal, whom they also referred to as “Al-ilah,” and this, goes the claim, was the source of “Allah.” But ilah is simply the Arabic word for “god.” Al-ilah means, “the god.” (The Arabic “al” is equivalent to the English “the.”) In precicely the same generic way, Semitic tribes used this basic term, il or el, to refer to their various gods for thousands of years before Muhammad. El was the chief deity of the Canaanite pantheon; the Canaanite language was closely related to Hebrew. With Abraham and the birth of the great monotheistic faiths, these words were adopted to refer to the one God. The Aramaic form was Alaha, the Hebrew Eloah, which became the Elohim who does the creating in the first chapter of Genesis.

Taking a closer look at our own language, I found precisely the same linguistic process: our word “God” is derived from the proto-German pagan word gott, which denotes a particular water spirit. The Latin Deus, from which we draw our word, “deity,” Spanish its Dios, and French its Dieu, are all descendants of Zeus, the name for the chief god in the Greek pantheon. Yet when modern Christians pray to God, Dios, or Dieu, we don’t accused them of invoking Zeus or a pagan water demon! The Hubal issues was a nonissue: God, Dios, Elohim, Eloah, Alaha – and yes, Allah as well – all refer to the same One Deity of Abrahamic monotheism.

For over five hundred years before the birth of Muhammad, Arab Christians and even some Jews in the Arabian peninsula used the word Allah for God.

Mark J. Siljander, A Deadly Misunderstanding, 46-47

As we continue, remember that the great monotheistic beliefs understand that there is only one God. There is no other God. So, when one says that they are worshiping the one God and then describes that God in many of the same ways we would, it is difficult to come to the conclusion that they are, in fact, worshiping “another” god. Here are some of the descriptions that Islam has for Allah:

God is:
Creator of Universe
Revealer of Himself
The Light

It is easy to see that the way the Qur’an describes God, is very much how we would describe God. Would they describe God in every way that a follower of Jesus would? No. Would they understand God in every way that a follower of Jesus would? No. But, this shouldn’t negate the fact that Islam is monotheistic and hold to many of the same descriptions that we would hold to.

And these descriptions shouldn’t be too surprising, as Muhammad had much contact with Jews and Christians on the trade routes and the fact that Surah 3:64 states,

Say, "O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you - that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah ." But if they turn away, then say, "Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him]."

One can see that there are many similarities between the God of the Bible and Allah of the Qur’an. Even Muhammad, when speaking to “the people of the book (Scripture)” states that we both worship the same God and that none is his equal. The reason is the fact that Muhammad saw that the Jew, the Christian and the Muslim were all worshiping Jehovah, God, Allah – the one true God.

I will continue tomorrow with how the Scriptures describe those people who do not know God to be triune, yet One: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

What Is Up With All These Posts on Islam? Part I

If you read, or even glance at this blog, you have noticed some major concentrations on Islam lately. You might be asking, "why?" Why has a white dude who grew up in Oklahoma, now in Seattle for the past 20 years, care about Muslims or focus in on them? I want to answer this question, so you can see that this isn't just some sort of "kick" I am on with no real purpose. The point is, there is real purpose for why my focus has been on truly understanding Islam.

What I Used to Believe About Islam

Many have asked what books I have read on Islam. Before a month ago, the list was mostly apologetical books and articles that have dealt with Islam as an evil and terroristic religion that we should fear. Most of these books are written from those in the West, and when I posted book reviews, got a few emails from Muslims saying that they don't believe what the book represents. Being argumentative, I just ignored their plea and hammered them with Qur'anic passages that I felt proved my case on why they "should" believe instead of what they actually believed. Some of the books that aided me in this type of prideful and ignoramus response were:

Islamic Invasion by Robert Morey

A Christian's Pocket Guide to Islam by Patrick Sookhdeo

The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin

and many other books and articles that I can't find links to, or were not formally published.

The one book that was a lot more balanced, but I did not care for because of my hatred for Islam was, Light in the Shadow of Jihad by Ravi Zacharias. Here was my synopsis (dated early 2006):

I thought this was going to take more of a stand against Muslims and Islam. But what I found is really a fight against evil and really against what the "extremists" believe in Islam. If I hadn't read or listened more of Ravi than just this book I would think he was partial to the "peaceful" Muslims. He did talk about the Islamic countries in bits and about their oppression but never really came down on the crux of this religion that, based on their own Koran, they are told to be "killing machines" to all those who are not Muslim, to wait in the bushes to ambush the infidels. So what happened on 9/11 shouldn't have been a shock to those educated on what Islam stands for.

The book was good in parts but left me wanting more arguments for why Christianity is based on love and Islam is based on a vengeful and hateful allah to even his own people. Instead all you get is more generalities and universal arguments from a worldview standpoint instead of a point by point argument or discussion on basically "Why Christianity and Why not Islam" Because truly Christ is the only Light in any shadow.

This embarrassing review is one that I do not hold to now, but gives a good insight to where I used to be. Namely, I hated Islam and believed it to be a religion based on fear and terror, that hated Jesus and everything he stood for.

I held this belief until about a month ago. It has been a whirlwind of a month and study.

What Were Some of the Things That Challenged Me?

First, the person that challenged me was an elder at my new church. I started to attend a new church, Harambee (You can read a post on why my family attends Harambee here), and was starting to really be challenged, especially by this one individual. I kept hearing that he was truly reaching out and becoming friends with Muslims in our area. Not only that, but he was given the opportunity to speak at some of their gatherings. As we spoke more and more, I finally just asked, "What books should I read to understand your position on Islam?" Before this question, I didn't believe that Muslims worshiped the same God, believed they should be terrorists if they obeyed the Qur'an and that Muhammad was a war monger who was also a bit of a sexual deviant. Let's just say things have changed. The elder has been very patient with me and so far, I have read these books:

Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road by Paul Gordon-Chandler

Muslims, Christians and Jesus by Carl Medearis

A Deadly Misunderstanding by Mark D. Siljander

No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan (about half way done)

I have also listened to all of Carl Medearis' talks (found here), read other articles on some of the misunderstandings and had great talks with the elder at Harambee on further issues that he is facing with Christian/Muslim relations. As you can has been a whirlwind month or so.

Some of the things that have really challenged me were the misconceptions I had about Muhammad and Islam in general. I also read the Qur'an in the past, looking for reasons to hate it. So, when doing that, I always trusted the Western apologetical commentaries on it, or trusted militant Islam in their interpretations. What I was challenged on was what Carl Medearis asked in one of his talks. He asked, "Don't you want to be fairly represented when someone is discussing what you believe?" He went on to say that most of us in the West tell Muslims what they believe, and they don't agree. We draw up straw men and don't allow them to tell us what they actually believe. I have brought it up before, but this would be the same if a Muslim believed that we were more like Fred Phelps and represented us in that light to all of the Muslim world. What Fred Phelps is to us, militant Islam is to most of the Muslim world. This struck a cord with me pretty deep.

Not only that, but I read an article about what the Muslim believes we think represents "The Son of God." (click here to read article) To be precise, they only have one Arabic term for "son" and it literally means "one who is brought forth because of sexual relations." Meaning, they think we believe that God had sex with Mary to bring forth Jesus. The Arabic term for "son" isn't even used for an adopted son in the Arabic culture.

One other thing that really hit me was the fact that the interpretations of the Qur'an into English can be quite a bit different. One that struck me quite harshly, that has me desiring to look into other surahs, is the most famous aya ,or verse, about Muslims being allowed to beat their wives.

4:34. ‘Men are in charge of (or overseers of - qawwamuna) women, as Allah has given them more (strength) than the other (sometimes translated as made them superior to the other), and because they spend of their wealth (to provide for them). Therefore women who are virtuous are obedient to God, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what God would have them guard. As for those women on whose part you fear rebellion (nushuz), admonish them and banish them to beds apart, (and last) beat (adribu) them. Then, if they obey you, seek not a way against them. For God is Most High, Great (above you all).

But then, as I was reading "No god but God", Aslan gave a quite different way to interpret this verse from the Arabic to English. Aslan also points out that the way that Muhammad treated his wives, and the way that he highly valued them, would point more towards this second interpretation (other things are given as examples and reasons are given why many Muslim nations adopted the first interpretation):

‘Men shall take full care of women, with the bounties which God has bestowed on them more abundantly than upon the latter, and with what they may spend out of their possessions. The righteous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has ordained to be guarded. As for those women whose ill-will you have reason to fear (on whose part you fear nushuz – disloyalty, rebellion, ill-conduct), talk to them persuasively, then leave them alone in bed (without molesting them) then (adribu) them (ie. either separate from them, or resume sleeping with them when they are willing and seek peace); and if they return to obedience, do not seek an excuse for blaming them: For God is Most High, Great (above you all).

All of the sudden, this surah has no issues within it at all. Because of the above mentioned thoughts, and many other findings, I have changed my views on Islam as a whole. I will go into, with my next post, why I am starting to care about Muslims as a whole and desire for them to know Jesus, not Christianity. I want you, the reader, to know the answer to your many questions to me when you ask, "Why concentrate your 'efforts' with Muslims?" I also want all my readers to understand, I am not saying that Islam leads to heaven. I believe that only those who trust and follow Jesus will be in heaven, and no religion will ever get anyone to heaven, including Christianity. I also have been writing to hopefully aid in a healthier understanding of Islam, through the eyes of people who desire to follow the ways of Jesus, instead of the ways of the West. I want those that follow Jesus to understand Islam instead of ostracizing and hating them. When this happens, we can then take the conversations to Jesus, instead of merely trying to win a stupid debate that gets no one anywhere but pride.

May we all be challenged by ALL of what Jesus did and said, instead of those we deem culturally acceptable.

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Why Do You Fear Me? A Must See Web Event

I will be writing next week on some of the reasons why I have started doing some major study on Islam and also on Islam/Christian relations. I think this post will be needed to give some insight on why this blog has had so many posts on Islam lately. It is very purposeful and if you have been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that I post on what I personally am learning at the time. So, being that I am currently reading two books, have just finished two, read articles and listened to white American followers of Jesus (specifically Carl Medearis) and how they are speaking about Jesus "behind enemy lines", you are seeing a lot of posts on the religion of Islam and how we might be able to reach them for the sake of Jesus.

Anyways...there is a great event coming up called, "Why Do You Fear Me?" with the aforementioned Carl Medearis, prolific author Ted Dekker and David Beasley
former South Carolina governor ('95-'99). They will be answering live questions on Islam and the Muslim people. Below is a video introducing this event and you will also notice the banner on the right side of the blog with a link to the home page. Please consider watching this event and praying for the Muslim people. They are in need of Jesus as much as your family members.

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