Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus


Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi is one of the best books I’ve read, and actually I just finished re-reading it. I first heard about the book a few years ago on some radio program, but I forgot the title and I’m very poor with names. So I looked in my church library for a book about a Muslim converting to Christianity. I found one and was ready to head for home but our church librarian saw what book I had and recommended Nabeel’s book. I read the other one too, but this one I devoured.

I’m not big on re-reading books, but I had the opportunity to be a part of the launch team for the third edition of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Honestly, I’d read the book so fast and close to the time that I read the other book, I really didn’t remember a lot of details. But I remembered I loved it.

How thankful I am that I have had the opportunity to re-read this book. Not only is it a wonderful autobiography told in Nabeel’s easy style, but it’s also an apologetics book, one designed to illumine his own struggle, to guide other Muslims who may also be searching for the truth, and to inform Christians about things we should know in our desire to talk with people of other faiths and other cultures.

In addition, there are some other excellent essays that weren’t in the first edition and there is an afterword talking about Nabeel’s ministry as a Christian, and ultimately of his battle with stage 4 cancer that took his life last year.

The best part, in my opinion, was when Nabeel, at the end of his struggle to cling to the faith that he loved, that defined him and gave him a place in a family and culture that was fundamental to his life, turned first to the Quran and then to the Bible for comfort. I love how God directed him to the very passages he needed to read, how he realized at once that these verses were life, that they offered him exactly what he was seeking.

I will say, a part of Nabeel’s struggle puts me to shame. As a devote Muslim, he had a prayer life that compares to no one I know. Not that his prayers were efficacious. Much of them were nothing but repetition he learned as a small boy.

But he had the practice of turning to God, of spending time with Him. And I think this above all else drove him to make probably the hardest decision a person can make—he did just what Scripture talks about, literally: he denied himself, took up his cross, and followed Jesus. To the point that nothing was going to be in first place in his life above God. Not his beloved parents or sister, not the Muslim community or the standing of his family in it, not his friends, his years of study to become a medical doctor. None of it.

So why does this put me to shame? I don’t wrestle with God in prayer the way Nabeel did. I turn to Him, but stay on my face before Him? I wish.

And I have to wonder what my life would be like if I had to give up everything for Christ. Would I take the step Nabeel did? Would I have the courage? Would I have the faith?

I find it so encouraging that this intelligent man with four, going on five, advance degrees, who was heading for Oxford, went about studying first Christianity, then Islam, in such systematic ways until he arrived at what is true. But ultimately he had to step out and put his trust in Jesus Christ who would forgive Him of his sins, who would show him the true love and grace of God the Father.

Nabeel shares many insights, and not all are for people who want to share their faith with Muslims. Some are just universally true, and that makes this book such a good read for people who want to understand Christianity more, who want to understand Islam more, who want to be able to talk to people of other faiths, other cultures.

In short, I highly recommend Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, 3rd edition, with all the excellent articles in the appendices. Read it, share it, tell others about it. It’s a book that is life changing because it’s about a changed life.

Advertisements
Published in: on August 21, 2018 at 5:21 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , ,

What Is Cultural Christianity?


I heard a pastor on the radio talk about cultural Christianity, but I thought his answer was fairly incomplete. Basically he said that in the US many years ago most people knew about Jesus, and a lot of people were saved, even people you thought maybe you could share the gospel with.

Well, that was only partly right, I think. I think Nabeel Qureshi, author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus explained cultural Christianity more correctly.

Growing up as a Muslim and as a second generation American, Nabeel understood Christianity more from what he learned at home than he did from any personal encounter with Christians.

Eastern teachers have taught the Muslims that the West is Christian, that its culture is promiscuous, and that the people oppose Islam… I remember pointing out to [my parents] that the people dressed provocatively on television might not be Christian, and their response was, “What do you mean? Don’t they call themselves ‘Christian’? Don’t you see them wearing crosses?” If I argued that some of them may be Christian in name only and might not even believe in God, they responded that this simply meant they were Christians who don’t believe in God. They did not categorize religion with belief but with cultural identity. (pp 80-81, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus)

Those who are culturally Christian do things that Christians do such as celebrate Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving. They might even go to church from time to time. They might pray at meals, like the Reagan family does in the TV program Blue Bloods. They might wear crosses and even send their children to a parochial school. These are traditions they keep because they’ve been raised in tradition, but they have no personal understanding or belief in Jesus and His saving power over sin. Their “Christianity” is only culturally deep. It doesn’t reach their heart or change their life.

The radio pastor is an evangelist and I respect him a lot, but he was talking about cultural Christianity as if those who have the Christian tradition were in a better place than people who have no familiarity with who Jesus is.

I think the opposite is true. People who think they know about Jesus, who picture Him perpetually as a baby in a manger or as a bloody figure on a cross, don’t understand the gospel. But they think they do. So they don’t have a grasp of the fact that they need to listen to someone who teaches what the Bible really says.

Many cultural Christians actually deny Christ and turn their back on Him. Oh, I’ve tried that, they’ll say, and it doesn’t work.

Doesn’t work? What did they think a relationship with God was supposed to “do for them”? They are behaving like consumers. They went out shopping for religion, bought the one that seemed to promise the most, then found it wanting.

Christianity isn’t like that, but cultural Christianity is.

That’s the problem. Too many people, and not just Muslims, but atheists, too, think they know what Christianity is when they only have a nodding acquaintance with cultural Christianity. I like to refer to cultural Christianity as pretend Christianity, though the latter term also includes false teachers and cults and “progressives” who say they believe, but who deny Jesus in one way or another.

Christianity has become a kind of catch-all term and it breaks my heart that one aspect of it is culture that is permissive, greedy, immoral. Those things have nothing to do with God’s holiness and goodness and righteousness. It’s as Nabeel said: a great travesty that Muslims—and I would not be surprised if other people groups made the same mistake—associate Christianity with the American culture they see on TV.

The thing is, I think we in the Church need to make an effort to “come out from among them.” We need to be different, not by being weird, but by being more like Christ. No one should be surprised to learn that someone is a Christian. By our good works, by our speech, by our love, people should recognize that we not only have been with Jesus but that He lives in us.

FYI, you can pre-order Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, 3rd edition, from now until Aug. 20 and receive some bonus material at the website set up for Nabeel, who died of cancer a year or so ago.

Prayer For Muslims


30-Days Of Prayer posterThis past Sunday, I stumbled upon a booklet calling for Christians to pray for Muslims during the month of Ramadan.

The year I spent in Tanzania when I was seventeen, we hired a man to care for our yard and garden. My parents also invited him to have the noon mean with us—which became our dinner, not lunch, so that Omari would have at least one substantial meal. Through that year we got to know him some, including the fact that he was Muslim by tradition. He didn’t pray at the prescribed times during the day, but he did keep Ramadan.

Ever since then, I’ve been mindful of this special month, but it wasn’t until this year when I read the booklet I referred to that I understood why Ramadan shifted to different points during the year. In essence, the Islamic calendar is shorter than the Gregorian calendar, “with an annual drift of 11 or 12 days” (Wikipedia).

This year the Muslim world will celebrate Ramadan June 18 to July 17. As they have since 1993, a group of Christians have chosen to focus their prayers on the Muslim world during Ramadan. It’s a great goal, I think.

In part, here’s what the press release says:

Christians are gearing up … for the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World, an international movement that began in 1993. Millions of Christians worldwide, and from many denominations, have regularly participated in this concerted prayer effort for Muslims coinciding annually with the month of Ramadan, a time of the year when Muslims are much more deeply aware of spiritual matters.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a time when Muslims are supposed to practice self‐restraint by fasting (abstaining from food and drink and other physical needs) during daylight hours. It is also a time to make peace and strengthen ties with family, friends and neighbors, and do away with bad habits. The Arabic word for “fasting” (sawm) means, “to refrain;” not only refraining from food and drink, but also from evil actions and thoughts. Muslims hope that as a result God will be more inclined to hear their prayers.

WorldChristian.com is the North American coordinator of the annual 30 Days prayer focus designed to raise awareness and encourage new initiatives to reach out to Muslims—around the world and across the street—with more understanding, and with faith, hope and the love of Christ.

When 30 Days started, Islam was not a daily news item; much has changed since the 9/11 attacks. ISIS! Al‐ Qaeda! Boko Haram! These radical terror groups now invade our news channels every day. But there is another story, an even greater story that is unfolding across the Muslim world today.

Mission strategist and author David Garrison says: “We are in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in 14 centuries of Muslim‐Christian interaction. More than 80% of all the Muslim movements to Christ in history have occurred in the past two to three decades, a time period that coincides with the modern prayer movement for Muslims.”

There are a number of organizations sponsoring this prayer effort including Voice of the Martyrs, TEAM, Tyndale, and Christ for All Peoples.

The 30-day prayer plan is to pray for a particular country or region each of the thirty days of Ramadan. If you’re interested, you can access the information on line at the 30 Days Of Prayer site or you can purchase prayer booklets, either individually or in bulk should you wish to make them available to a Bible study or prayer group.

I’m convinced praying for Muslims, whether we view them as neighbors or as enemies, is something that fits into God’s commandment to Christians to love. Too many Christians can skirt the topic of loving Muslims by saying, we don’t know any Muslims. But we forget that we can pray for people we haven’t ever spoken to. The fact is, God knows them all by name. He also hears and answers prayer, and He can do the impossible.

From time to time, I wonder what happened to Omari. For a number of years he would write to my dad, but then the letters stopped. What became of him? Of his family? Did he ever put his faith in Jesus Christ? Are his children preparing to celebrate Ramadan in a few weeks, or are they gathering with other Christians to pray for their Muslim neighbors?

I certainly wasn’t faithful in praying for Omari, though he sat at our table day after day for an entire year, though he spent time learning English from my sister, though he worked diligently at his job. I don’t want to miss another opportunity to pray for people who God can bring to Himself—regular people who need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed in an understandable way.

I’d like to invite anyone else who might be so inclined, to join the prayer team. There’s nothing to sign, though you’re welcome to go public in the comments, if you want. Sometimes making a commitment others know about helps us to be faithful. But some may think these decisions are for the prayer closet and the prayer closet alone. That’s fine, too. God hears and answers corporate prayer and individual prayer.

Either way, may we see God work to move the mountain of unbelief in the hearts of thousands in the days to come.

Published in: on May 26, 2015 at 6:22 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,

Identity


American_flag-1342516-mMuch is made of identity theft these days, but a new consideration has come up with the terrorist attacks in France. This identity issue was something discussed on a news program. The question is whether Muslims identify most with their nation or with their faith community.

Supposedly a high percentage (80% if I remember correctly), said they first thought of themselves as Muslims, then as French citizens, or British, or whatever. I shook my head at the news, then thought, But wait. Don’t Christians think the same way? Or shouldn’t we?

To be honest, I think a lot of Christians and even more professing Christians think being a good American is a requirement for someone to be a good Christian. I don’t know what they think about Christians from another country.

The distinct feeling I get is that Christians ought to work hard to get this nation turned back to conservative values. Then all will be well.

First, America, for all the wisdom of its founders and the blessings we’ve enjoyed during the first 200 years of our existence, has been deeply flawed from its inception. I could enumerate the problems, but that’s not my intent here.

The second, and perhaps more pertinent issue, is that God never intended to create an earthly kingdom—not after Man sinned, and not on this world that was under the curse of sin. Jesus Himself spelled this out more completely right before He was sentenced to be crucified:

Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”

Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?”

Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:33-38)

Yes, Jesus is a king. No, His kingdom is not of this world. So why do His followers try to set up “heaven on earth”?

To recap, America is flawed, God never intended to create an earthly kingdom, but there’s a third factor. No kingdom of God is possible in the here and now.

The bottom line is this: no matter how perfect a government a group of people might set up, it is still going to have sinful people in places of power. What’s the old adage? The best of men are men at best—meaning they are flawed, incapable of making perfect, selfless decisions one hundred percent of the time. It will take a perfect King to rule a perfect kingdom—and that’s what Jesus intends when He returns.

In the meantime, the idea of America or any other country being God’s country, is mistaken. Since Christ first came, God has gone in a different direction, away from the idea of a nation as His representative, which Israel operated under. Rather, He’s chosen followers which He fits into a new embodiment of His design for humankind.

This precious value, then, is for you who believe . . . you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. (1 Peter 2:7a, 9-10)

Additionally, Colossians tells us God “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).

In other words, this kingdom of which we’re a part, this holy nation, is something all of us who have redemption are a part of. It’s not something unique to Americans! Which ought to go without saying, but apparently some people need to have it spelled out. Which is fine. The Bible does a fine job of spelling it out.

Paul agrees with Peter, not only in his letter to the church in Colossae, but also to the one he wrote to the church in Philippi: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). According to Strong’s, the Greek word “citizenship” isn’t ambiguous. It has these meanings:

  • the administration of civil affairs or of a commonwealth
  • the constitution of a commonwealth, form of government and the laws by which it is administered
    • a state, commonwealth
    • the commonwealth of citizens

One commentator explains our real identity is that of aliens:

If we are citizens of heaven it means that we are resident aliens on earth. Foreigners are distinct in whatever foreign land they go. Christians must be so marked by their heavenly citizenship that they are noticed as different.

In fact, the Philippians would have understood this analogy well. Though they lived far from Rome, they were still citizens of Rome, with rights and privileges as well as responsibilities of their citizenship. They were to represent Rome well.

So, too, we Holy Nation people are to live with our rightful identity in mind, our true citizenship, aware of our rights and privileges, but not forgetting our responsibilities. We are to represent God well. Which was what He’s intended all along!

%d bloggers like this: