Monday, April 28, 2014

7 Things You Might Not Know About Muslims

Recently, I read the book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, the true story of Nabeel Qureshi’s unexpected journey from Islam to Christianity. Nabeel grew up in a loving, devout Muslim home.  In his book, he describes how he loved Islam, but as a seeker of knowledge and truth, he began to discover evidence for Christianity. This discovery would cost him everything.

Throughout the book, Nabeel gives helpful information to the reader about Islam.  By recounting his learning experiences as a child growing up in Islam to a young man in college, the non-Muslim reader is able to understand the core beliefs of this ancient religion. 

As a former Ancient World History teacher, I knew and taught basic “book” facts about Islam.  Nabeel’s story gave me a personal look into the beliefs and practices of Muslims. I learned some things I found extremely interesting and worth sharing.

1.  How a Muslim hears from God

“Dreams are the only means by which the average Muslim expects to hear from God.”(p.65) Muslims are taught to pay special attention to dreams and visions, because Allah may use one to communicate with them directly.

Although they pray 5 times a day, these are recited prayers, not prayers from the heart.  While a Christian might expect to hear from God during a time of prayer and Bible reading, a Muslim does not expect to hear from Allah during these prayer times, nor do they look to the Quran.

            My observation:  This explains why many Muslims who convert to Christianity share about having dreams and visions of Jesus appearing to them.

2.  Popular chapter in the Quran

The Quran is divided in two ways: one was into 114 chapters, called “surahs”, and the other was into thirty parts. Breaking it into thirty parts made it possible for them to read through the whole book during Ramadan, their holy month.

One of the most popular chapters is number 112, because it’s “short, melodic, and memorable” and contains what Muhammad “considered so weighty and consequential that reciting it is like reciting one third of the whole Quran in one sitting.” The message? God is not a father, and He has no son. (p. 39)

            My observation: How interesting that one of the most beautiful and easy to memorize chapters in the Quran directly conflicts with our most popular verse in the Bible, John 3:16. Coincidence? No way.

3.  Odd Beliefs about the Crucifixion of Jesus

Muslims have different views of what actually happened when Jesus died on the cross.  Most Muslims believe “the substitution theory,” that Allah put Jesus’ face on someone else, and that person was crucified in Jesus place.  The most popular view is that Allah put Jesus’ face on Judas’ body for poetic justice. Muslims must believe Jesus did not die on the cross, because the Quran says, “Jesus was neither killed nor crucified, but so it appeared.” (p.87) 

            My observation:  If Jesus didn’t die and rise again then we Christians are wasting our time.  If His blood didn’t wash away my sins, then I am still a sinner who is unworthy to stand before a holy God on judgment day.  The cross means everything, and therefore Muslims must deny that it even happened. 

4.  Respect for the Quran

The Quran is so revered, Muslims must wash their hands before touching it.  They can only touch it with their right hand.  It must never be placed on the ground.  Children are taught to read Arabic because Muslims believe the Quran must be read and memorized in the original language.

            My observation: I was truly convicted by this information.  As Christians under grace, we can take things for granted.  We can even treat the holy as common.  Have I taught my children to love the Bible like Muslims teach their children to love the Quran?  Lord help me.

5.  Christian truths Muslims reject

The three biggest hurdles for a Muslim coming to Christ—believing in Jesus’ death on a cross, believing in the Resurrection, and believing in the Trinity, that God is three in one.   A “three in one” God belief is especially profane, since their main call to prayer, the Adhan, says, “there is no god but Allah!”

            My observation:  Christians, if you can’t defend all your beliefs, at least decide to work on these three.  The books More than a Carpenter, The Case for Christ, Mere Christianity, and even this book, SAFJ, will help you sharpen your apologetic skills.

6.  Heaven, Hell & How You Get There

Both Muslims and Christians believe in a Heaven, Hell, and a day of judgment.  Christians believe in salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone; Muslims believe in order to get into Heaven their good works must outweigh their bad deeds.  Also, they must follow the five pillars: reciting shahada (‘There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger”), praying 5 times a day, paying alms (giving to the poor), fasting during Ramadhan, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj).

7.  Cost of Converting to Christianity

Muslims must give up everything to embrace the cross of Christ—family, social connections, and perhaps, depending on where they live, their freedom. Converting to Christ brings tremendous shame on their families.  Also, they are risking it ALL when they accept Christ, because they’ve been taught their whole lives that the one unforgivable sin, or “shirk”, is to believe that someone other than Allah is God.

My observation: What can I do?

Pray for Muslims around the world to have visions & dreams of Jesus.

Pray for Christians living in Islamic nations to stay strong and keep the faith. (ex. Saeed Abedini currently in Iranian prison for his faith)

Show love to Muslims in my community. (Watch Nabeel Qureshi share on how to witness to a Muslim.)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Lengths God Will Go To . . . To Make Sure You End Up With the Right Guy

“He will send his angel ahead of you, and he will see to it that you find a wife there for my son.” Gen. 24:7

One day there was a beautiful girl who lived a pretty mundane existence.  She dreamed of the day a wonderful man would enter her life and sweep her off her feet. She was old enough for marriage, she was still a virgin, but there were no worthy men in her town.  The highlight of her day was drawing water at the well. 

She was a good girl.  But where were all the good men? 

On one ordinary day (or so she thought), she set out to fulfill her ordinary duties, just like she did every other ordinary day.  She put her heavy water jug on her shoulder and made the uneventful, arduous trek to the nearby well.  A stranger was at the well, and he was staring at her. 

The man approached her and asked her for some water.  She noticed the man was traveling with ten loaded-down camels.  The man looked exhausted, like he’d come a great distance. 

She was a little shocked at the offer that came out of her mouth, “Yes, my Lord, have a drink.  I'll draw water for your camels, too, until they’ve had enough to drink."

Her name was Rebekah.

She had no idea she’d just said the very words the stranger prayed to hear.

You know how the story ends.  The man, Abraham’s servant, brings her back and introduces her to his master’s son, Isaac.  Rebekah and Isaac would marry.  She would be the mother of Jacob, who later became Israel. 

Rebekah shows us the lengths God will go to, to make sure you end up with the right guy.  It’s easy to pass over some of the details in the story, but let’s review to see just how many things had to line up for Rebekah to get her guy:

· Abraham’s servant was willing to go to a “distant land”, via camel-back, to find a girl from the family of Abraham.  Tall order, considering he had no GPS, address, phone #--just the name of a family and a town.

· The servant would need to convince the girl to leave her family, move so far away she would likely never see them again, and marry a man she’d never met.

· The servant was not allowed to bring Isaac, the future groom, with him to help with the selection process (no pressure or anything!). 

· Rebekah had to be at the well at the very time Abraham’s servant was there, and she had to offer to water his camels.

· Rebekah had to be willing to leave all she’d ever known to marry a man she’d never met. And she only had one night to decide!

So many things had to line up in order to make this marriage happen. But, with God all things are possible.

I’m still amazed at the events God orchestrated in order for me to meet my husband, Matt:

· In 1983, Matt’s dad’s brand new car dealership failed, causing his dad to look for a new job. (At the time, this looked like a disaster.  But if it never happened, they wouldn’t have 3 awesome grandchildren today—Chase, Skye & Ryder!)

· Soon after, his dad found a great job in Texas; unfortunately, it would require that Matt change schools his senior year.  This led to a very unhappy Matt! (Matt was given the option to stay and live with his grandparents his senior year, but in the end he knew it would break his mom’s heart. So, he made the right choice and moved—and he met me!)

· His mom and dad, after making the move to Texas, needed to find a church.  After much prayer and many, many visits to various churches, they discovered the church my dad pastored, Bethel Temple.  One Sunday, my dad introduced me to a very tall, skinny, and super cute 17-year-old guy named Matt Stewart.

And the rest is history.

Ladies, God will go to great lengths to make sure you meet your man.  If you’re already married, you know that’s true.  If you’re not married yet, and that’s the desire of your heart, then take some lessons from Rebekah: 

· Be faithful right where you are.  Keep doing those ordinary, mundane tasks.  While you’re going about your business, God can bring the guy right to you! God is in the business of divine set-ups!  (Gen. 24:7)

· Choose a pure lifestyle while you’re waiting. (Gen. 24:16)

· If this new relationship requires great change, trust the advice of your family.  (Gen. 24:50, 51)

· Trust God when the door opens. Be willing to leave your old life behind to embrace the new.  (Gen. 24:58)

I can’t wait to hear your “How I Met My Guy” story one day! And that day is coming!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Age is Irrelevant

Bishop Anne Gimenez
Age is irrelevant.”

That’s what Anne Gimenez, the 81-year-old Bishop of Rock Church in Virginia Beach, co-founder of Washington for Jesus rallies, and co-founder of 400 churches around the world, said to me this morning as she was getting her makeup done to appear on The 700 Club.  This stunning octogenarian had something to tell me, and I was anxious to hear the story I knew would follow. She proceeded to tell the following, which I have done my best to paraphrase:

I’m getting to the place now where I believe age is irrelevant.  If God speaks a word into you, then you’re here until that word is fulfilled.

In May of 2013 I almost died—I was in the hospital with severe heart arrhythmia, and the medication they gave me took my heartbeat from 120 down to 40.  No one was monitoring me at the time.  My assistant happened to be there, and she ran for the doctor.  In those moments, the Lord spoke to me and said, “Next year you will travel around the world.”  

I almost laughed, "I can't go around the world, Lord!  I'm dying!" But I believed Him . . .

Since then, I’ve spoken in Korea & Japan.  In a few months I’m going to India & Liberia; I also have an invitation to preach in Singapore. While in Japan, I spoke to 5,000 women, and all over the room the ladies were baptized in the Holy Spirit.  The same thing happened in Korea.  When I spoke there, it was 4 in the morning (my time).  I should have been tired!  But, as I was preaching, I’d never felt such an anointing.  I actually stopped and thought, “This is so powerful—Lord, am I supposed to move to Korea and start a ministry?” (She smiled and laughed at the thought.)

If the Lord speaks a word to you, your job is to believe it and take action.  Faith requires action.  I could have said, “No, God, I just want to stay home.” But, I didn’t!  I’m so glad I said, “Yes!”

I returned to my desk completely inspired by her testimony. 

Just yesterday, I read the story of 99-year-old Abram who got a word from the Lord that he would have a son, a name change, and would be the father of many nations.  The Bible says, “Abraham believed God and God credited it to him as righteousness.”

Then, there’s the other side of the coin—two young boys, Samuel and David,  each got a word from the Lord that they would do great things one day. They believed the word from God, and everything God said came to pass.

As Bishop Anne said, “Age is irrelevant.” But at any age and at any stage of life, believing God is of utmost importance.  What has God spoken to your heart?  Will you believe and take action? 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Alan & Lisa Robertson--Ministry, Marriage & Duck Stuff

At 7:45 AM on Monday, Oct. 21, I sat down with Alan & Lisa Robertson. Along with being the guest segment producer for the 700 Club,  I also manage the "In the Green Room" segments for  I rarely produce these web segments myself because my mornings at work are very busy.  However, I LOVE Duck Dynasty and I love pastors & pastors' wives so this was a couple I wanted to interview myself! They are just what they appear to be on their rare appearances on the show--warm, funny, godly, down-to-earth, genuine and just good people.

Later that morning, they appeared on The 700 Club. They were on the show to talk about their family's latest project, The Duck Commander Devotional. If you are fans of the show, you'll love the book because each day the devotional is written by a different Duck Dynasty cast member.  Missy, Alan, and Phil are probably my favorite writers so far. . .

Alan preached in the Regent University chapel that afternoon, and he was one of the best speakers we've ever had--I'm sure his church misses him being in the pulpit every Sunday.

For, we cut the interview down to 4 minutes. This is the uncut version.

By the way, Lisa told me that she and Alan will be in the Christmas episode--so, make sure to watch!

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Visit to the Hospital & My 25th Wedding Anniversary

This morning Matt and I visited a very sick friend, Ray Bell, in the hospital.  His wife Linda is a dear friend of mine, and I want so desperately for her to have more time with him on this earth. I've rarely witnessed two people more perfect for each other. Ray & Linda fell in love the first time they met and are still in love today.  

Last night Ray had a vision of Jesus.  The Lord told him to come on home. He saw Linda’s mom and dad (both deceased) standing behind Jesus, waiting for him with happy faces.  At 6 am this morning, Ray told Linda that he was done fighting, and he was ready to go home. She thought he was talking about their house, but after he shared his vision of Jesus with her, she knew what he meant by "home." He wanted her to call all his loved ones and say his last goodbyes. We felt very privileged to be on his “loved ones” list and to pray with him and his family, perhaps for the last time.  Only Jesus knows.

Being in ministry, we’ve met with several people over the years that are hovering between this life and the next.  When you walk away from those precious encounters, you can’t help but evaluate your life.  The Bible says our life is “a mist, a vapor”.  This life is so temporary.  Am I living for what really matters?  Am I taking people in my life for granted?

One strange thing about life—while one person is in the midst of a painful trial another person might be in a time of celebration.  That is the case with us. It’s our 25th wedding anniversary on Monday, and we are going to celebrate BIG tonight—our usual date night is going to another level! We’re eating at one of our favorite restaurants that we hit every 10 years—Ruth Chris Steakhouse.  After that, we’re going to see a movie.  We love going to the movies.  I told Matt—no flowers and no card necessary.  I just want to have fun with you. 

You see, when I'm with Matt, I'm in my happy place. I'm home.  I've told him before, the best thing about being married is that whenever change comes, we go through it together.  If we move, you're still here. If the kids leave, you're still here.  If we lost our jobs, we'd still have each other. 

I’m so very grateful for the years we’ve had together.  I don’t want to take my husband for granted.  He’s my best friend, my love, my pastor, and my biggest supporter.  Even this morning, he gave me another reason to love him.  Before the crack of dawn, our dog got sick all over the stairs, and he let me stay in bed while he got up and cleaned the carpet.  Then, he went ahead and steam-cleaned all the stairs. Now that’s a good man.

He’s also a wonderful father to our 3 children. I also realized this morning that I don’t want to miss out on one moment with my children.  They are my joy and delight. Now that my oldest son is grown and gone, I’ve become acutely aware of how quickly this “raising kids” stage of life goes by.  Oh, how fast it goes by . . .

Relationships are the only thing in life that matter, because they are the only things from this life that we take into eternity. 

But the most important relationship on this side of Heaven is our relationship with Jesus.  He is waiting with open arms for Ray. How wonderful that Jesus appeared to Ray, reassuring both he and Linda that it was ok to let go. The presence of Jesus is the ultimate home. One day He will welcome me home too.

Oh, I want to see Him, look upon His face,
There to sing forever of His saving grace;
On the streets of glory let me lift my voice,
Cares all past, home at last, ever to rejoice. *

*“Oh, I Want to See Him” by R.H. Cornelius (1916)