Dear Muslim Friends: Do You Fear Hell? You Don’t Have To. . .

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Dear Muslim friends,

“Do you fear hell?”

I usually don’t start out my blog posts with such a serious kind of question. But this is a subject that is really on my mind today and is incredibly important. I wanted to get right to the heart of the matter.

Please allow me to share a few brief experiences I have had with some Muslim friends regarding fear of hell.

A few years ago, I was with a dear Muslim friend from Bangladesh, enjoying a meal together. We were having great conversation about life and faith and at some point I asked him, “Do you fear hell?” His answer really impacted me (and hurt me on the inside). He looked down and said with real seriousness and a sadness in his voice and facial expression, “Every day.”

Another time, I was driving with a Muslim friend from Yemen and I asked him the same question. He replied with surprise, “Who wouldn’t fear hell? Can you imagine burning your hand in a fire? Then try to imagine your whole body burning. Can you imagine that? Of course I fear hell.”

While taking Christians on a tour of another mosque in Michigan, a very kind and well spoken imam said, “Your good deeds can outweigh your bad deeds and you can still go to hell.” When I asked him why, he said, “Because God is King. He can do whatever He wants.” (Wow, I have to admit, that answer shocked me.)

Dear Muslim friends, may I share with you why I don’t fear hell?

First of all, let me say that it’s not because I am such a good person. It’s not because my good deeds will outweigh my bad deeds on a scale on the day of judgment. It is certainly not because I never sin, because I sin every day – against the Lord and against people. I sin every day – either in my actions or in my thoughts. I sin every day – in what I do or in what I should have done. And I am not alone. The Injil says that we all have sinned and that we all have fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23).

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No, the reason that I don’t fear hell has nothing to do with my goodness. It has everything to do with God’s goodness. And just as importantly, with God’s promise. You see, God has promised that anyone who puts their faith in Jesus and his sacrifice will be completely, totally, and forever forgiven. Imagine it. All sins forgiven. Washed away. Every single one. All shame removed.

I have followed God’s way, His path. I have chosen to follow Jesus as my Savior. Because of this – and only this – I have God’s incredible, amazing, stunning promise of forgiveness in my heart:

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And because of this – and only this – I do not fear hell.

God. . .is a promise maker.

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And God. . .is a promise keeper.

He can change His mind.
But He won’t.

Why?
He promised.

This is my hope and prayer for every man and every woman: that they not be plagued by a constant anxiety about hell but that they might know an incredible peace in the deepest part of their soul. That they might know that heaven can be their eternal home and that their sins can be completely and eternally forgiven.

This is God’s amazing promise to all who put their faith in Jesus and His sacrifice of love.

Dear Muslim friends: “Do you fear hell?”

If you do, please hear these words: “You don’t have to. . .”

Do You Have A Shepherd To Save Your Life? (A Story Of Hope From Afghanistan)

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In the midst of death, a story of hope from Afghanistan. . .

I met Abdul early this year. Abdul is an Afghan. A few years ago while still in Afghanistan, his English was good enough to be hired as an interpreter for American troops fighting the Taliban. An American soldier became a friend and gave him a Bible. Abdul was particularly struck by something written 3,000 years ago by King Dawood in the Zabur, Psalm 23:

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Abdul read those verses over and over for many months.

Later, he worked for the British troops fighting the Taliban. As they were out on a mission, an Afghan man came running toward the British soldiers, waving his hands and yelling something.

Was he trying to protect the soldiers from danger ahead? Or. . . was he, in fact, the danger?

As he got closer to the soldiers, a shepherd suddenly appeared from the side and stopped Abdul to talk. They talked briefly, which kept him from advancing with the troops toward the man running at them. Suddenly, there was a horrible explosion. The man who was running toward the British troops had blown himself up, tearing apart the bodies of several of the soldiers and killing them.

Abdul was shaken by this. He had personally seen the Taliban behead interpreters. He was not unaccustomed to real, terrifying danger. But this was different.

That night, Abdul spoke to the other soldiers about the shepherd who approached him that terrible day and spoke briefly to him. To his shock and amazement, none of the surviving soldiers had seen the shepherd.

Who was this shepherd?

Abdul was baffled by this question but then he remembered the words of Psalm 23 about the One who protects His sheep with His rod:

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The shepherd. . .was. . .Jesus who said in The Injil (John 10:11, 14):

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That night, he crossed over a line. He gave his life to Jesus, the Good Shepherd who had saved his life.

A good news story of hope. . .from Afghanistan.

Do you have a Shepherd to save your life?

Sunni Vs. Shia, White Vs. Black – A Problem. . .Of The Heart?

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Where does hatred come from? Violence? Murder? Where do they originate?

The Prophet Jesus said the words in the graphic above. Like other sins, he said, hatred, violence, and murder come. . .from the heart.

Ben Watson – a professional American football player – writes below regarding the horrible racial divide and recent racial violence in America.

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I wonder, could his words – this is “a sin problem” – also relate to the Sunni-Shia conflict as well?

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I know the Sunni-Shia conflict is complex. I know it is very, very old. But could it be that this often bloody Sunni-Shia conflict is not just a religious or a political problem but something that all of us have – a sin problem? A problem. . .of the heart.

Please read and see if you believe that any of Watson’s words below about racial tension, hatred, and violence in America apply to the current Sunni-Shia situation in the Middle East.

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I’M ANGRY, because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I’M FEARFUL. because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I’M EMBARRASSED, because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

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I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn.

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BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the. . .tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.”

Have You Had A Dream (Or Vision) Of A “Man In White”?

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To all my dear Muslim friends around the world,

Have you ever had a dream or a vision of a “man in white,” especially during Ramadan?

The Injil describes such a vision:

“Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.” (Matthew 17:1-2)

Dear Muslim reader, maybe you have had a dream or vision of Isa – of Jesus. Many Muslims around the world have seen Him this way and they say that they have never known such love. If you see Him, I pray that you will respond to His amazing love – for you!

If you have a dream or vision of Jesus, seek out a follower of Jesus to talk to. Look for an Injil to read and learn more about the Prophet Jesus and his love. And then pray that you might know, “Is this truth?”

As always, I love you, my Muslim friends. . .

A 4th Of July Prayer For American Muslims

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Dear American Muslim Friends,

Today is a big day in American history. We think of July 4, 1776, as a day that represents the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain and the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation.

Now, 240 years later, our nation is a nation of more and more immigrants from all over the globe. And now, though our country began with Judeo-Christian roots, many of these immigrants are Muslims. For this, I am glad. I am glad because I want to be a reflection to all Muslims of the love of Jesus in my heart.

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And so, dear Muslim friends, here is my prayer for you on July 4, 2016:

“Almighty God in Heaven,
I thank You today on Independence Day that You have brought Muslim people here to America from all over the world. I thank You for the many American Muslims that I know and love and count as friends.”

“Almighty God, I pray for Muslims in this time of horrific terrorism. Extremists seem to be rising up everywhere. I ask that You would stop them and help them to see who You really are – a God of love. I ask that Americans would not allow the media to stereotype all Muslims in their minds. I ask that they would not be prejudiced or even racist toward American Muslims (or Muslim international students and refugees) during this time of our upcoming presidential election.”

“Lord, I ask that American Christians would befriend American Muslims and show them kindness, hospitality, and generosity. That Christians would go the extra mile in helping, serving, giving. Almighty God, when it comes to Muslims, I pray that Christians would become more like Jesus (compassion, grace, and truth) and less like Jonah (running away because of fear and hate).”

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“O Father in Heaven, I pray that churches would reach out to mosques and have sincere, respectful, heart-to-heart dialogues about their faiths – both the similarities, as well as the differences. I ask that love would rule over those times of Muslim-Christian conversation. I ask that no one would try to ‘win,’ but all would try to learn.”

“Lord, I ask that all of us – Muslims and Christians – would see clearly who Jesus is. I ask during these last few days of Ramadan that my American Muslim friends would have dreams of ‘the man in white’the Prophet Jesus. I ask that he would speak to hearts and minds through these dreams and visions.”

“Finally, great and merciful God in Heaven, I pray that You would help the relatives of American Muslims in these countries especially: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya (and also those affected by terrorism most recently in Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia). The people of those countries have suffered so greatly! Come, Lord, and heal. Come, Lord, and bring Your mercy to the suffering.”

“This is my 4th of July prayer today, O God, for American Muslims.”

“And as a follower of Jesus, I pray all these things in His name.”

“Ameen.”

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After Terrorism In Orlando, I Choose Love

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Dear Muslim Friends,

We have all heard of the latest act of terrorism – the mass shooting in Orlando this past weekend. 49 dead. Over 50 more injured. Tragic. Heart-breaking.

But my Muslim friends, I feel so badly for you too. You who love peace. You who must cringe every time you hear of another shooting attributed to a “Muslim extremist. . .”

Today, I wrote this piece below and put it on my private Facebook page as well as my I Love Muslims Facebook page. I hope it lets you know that no matter how many attacks like this take place, there are Christians who sincerely love you.

I choose love. . .

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In times like today (the tragedy in Orlando), I am challenged all the more to love like Jesus. His is not a naive love. It does not bury its head in the sand in trying to be politically correct about the reality of terrorism, of radical jihadists. But neither does it stereotype all Muslims and spread more fear and anger.

Others differ but I believe there is a time for waging war on the battlefield to stop evil and there is also a time for waging peace in our interpersonal relationships with those who are Muslim but hate ISIS and the kind of violence done in Orlando.

How would you like to be a truly peaceful Muslim today and be lumped together with this deranged shooter? Or with ISIS? To hear Donald Trump repeatedly call for steps to be taken against you? How would you like to be a Muslim parent whose child came home from school today with tears because he or she was treated with contempt because of Orlando?

It’s a fact: there are Muslim extremists. Jihadists. Terrorists. Evil, evil people. No doubt about it. And they must be stopped.

But let me tell you. My Muslim friends hate this violence. And because of all the stereotyping, they need love tonight.

I choose love. I choose to love Muslims in a time that is difficult for them.

I choose to love. . .like Jesus.

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Ramadan Mubarak! Ramadan Kareem!

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To all my Muslim friends during this month of Ramadan:

- when you fast each day. . .
may Almighty God reveal His love for you in ever increasing ways
- when you break the fast each night with an Iftar meal with family and friends. . .
may the Lord of Heaven and earth fill you His joy and thankfulness for His many blessings
- when you look up at night and see the stars. . .
may you see the Creator of those stars with more and more clarity

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- when you lie down to sleep tonight. . .
may you have dreams and visions of the Prophet Jesus – the Light of the World (The Injil, John 8:12)

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- finally. . .
may you know that Christians all over the world are praying for you this month and that we sincerely love you.

Yes, dear Muslim friends around the world. . .

Ramadan Mubarak! Ramadan Kareem!

Have You Ever Thought That Allah Stopped Loving You?

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Dear Muslim readers,

Have you ever thought that you were unloved by Allah?
That Allah stopped loving you?

Maybe we all have experienced that at times. The thought that God was so far away. Maybe angry with us. Maybe given up on us. Why? Because. Because we know that we just haven’t measured up. . .

In our prayers, and in our piety, we haven’t measured up.
In our dedication, and in our deeds, we haven’t measured up.

We all simply fall short – incredibly short – of God’s glory:

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Here are 2 critically important questions for you:

Does God’s love for us depend on what we do – our prayers, our fasting, our good deeds?

Or. . .does God’s love for us depend upon. . .GodHis innate, perfect, unchangeable, loving character?

Here is a song by Michael W. Smith that expresses God’s perfect love for us even in our unworthiness and sin. Please listen to it and read the lyrics below as you listen.

NEVER BEEN UNLOVED
I have been unworthy
I have been unrighteous
And I have been unmerciful

I have been unreachable
I have been unteachable
I have been unwilling
And I’ve been undesirable

And sometimes I have been unwise
I’ve been undone by what I’m unsure of
But because of You
And all that You went through

I know that I have never been unloved

I have been unbroken
I have been unmended
I have been uneasy
And I’ve been unapprochable

I’ve been unemotional
I’ve been unexceptional
I’ve been undecided
And I have been unqualified

Unaware – I have been unfair
I’ve been unfit for blessings from above
But even I can see
The sacrifice You made for me
To show that I have never been unloved

It’s because of You
And all that You went through

I know that I have never been unloved

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Today I know and believe this incredible truth: God. . .loves. . .me.

Not because of anything I do.

But because of Who He is.

How about you?

Have you ever felt that you were unloved by Allah?
That Allah stopped loving you?

If so, please read this verse. . .

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. . .and think again.

Today Is My 50th Spiritual Birthday!

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“Don’t go! Don’t go!”

I heard those words several times that day. Not out loud, just in my mind.

It was May 28th, 1966. 50 years ago today. I was just 10 years old.

At the time, I did not know the source of those words. I do now. Someone was trying to keep me from experiencing the greatest, most amazing, most crucial event of my life. Someone wanted my soul in hell for eternity. Someone was trying to prevent me from being rescued from that horrible place. Someone did not want me to know God – the only One who could save me. Thankfully, that someone – Satan – did not succeed.

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The night before, my Mom – a single parent – had taken me to a church in St. Francis, Kansas to hear a World War II veteran speak about his experiences in the Bataan Death March, how he forgave his Japanese torturers, and how he went back to Japan later to tell the Japanese people about Jesus. She spoke to the man – Jesse Miller – afterwards and expressed her concern that I had not “received Jesus as savior.” He said he would be glad to speak to me the next night after he spoke again.

But that next day, the voice was very real: “Don’t go! Don’t go!”

But. . .I did.

Unless I lose my memory, I will never, ever forget that night as long as I live. No moment, no event can compare to what happened that evening.

After Jesse Miller spoke that night, he invited me to sit down with him. He was very kind. All he did was to open his Bible to a specific verse – John 3:16 – and read it to me. I instantly understood several things without him saying another word:

1) I was a sinner
2) I deserved hell
3) God loved me and did not want me to go to hell
4) God proved His love for me by sending Jesus to die the death I deserved
5) If I put my faith in Jesus and what he did for me, God would forgive me of every sin and I would spend eternity in heaven with Him

With tears, I prayed that night. I repented. Yes, even a 10 year old kid needs to repent.

I tell you, it was amazing. Something happened. Not on the outside. On the inside. I was different. I was new somehow. Jesus himself called it being “born again” and stated emphatically that it was essential to entering heaven.

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I know many of my Muslim friends say, “I was born a Muslim.” It was not a choice. It was a fact of life.

For us as followers of Jesus, at some point – and solely by the grace of God – we made an intentional, deliberate choice to turn from our sins to submit to God (repentance). We made an intentional, deliberate choice to invite Jesus to be our Savior and follow him with all our hearts for all our lives.

I made that choice on the evening of May 28th, 1966. 50 years ago today.

I hope I never forget that night.

All glory to an amazing, gracious, loving God.

Today I celebrate.

Today is my “spiritual birthday!”

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(Postscript: in all these years, one thing remains. God has never failed me. His love has never let go of me, never given up on me, never run out on me. In death, in life, I’m confident and covered by the power of His great love! Nothing can separate me from it! Romans 8:38-39)