The Honest Muslim Panelist: “Let’s Not Pretend That Our Differences (Between Muslims & Christians) Don’t Really Matter”

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Dear Muslim & Christian friends,

I was having lunch in a great Middle Eastern restaurant a few weeks ago with a new pastor in our area. We began to talk about Christianity and Islam. We talked about the efforts of some churches and well-meaning Christians to have “interfaith” meetings which go to great lengths to totally ignore the differences between our faiths. They almost meld them together into some kind of “Chris-lam” in an effort to somehow be tolerant. Politically correct. Inclusive. And by their definition, “loving.”

My pastor friend related a different perspective in this story below which I hope Muslim and Christian readers will find both informative and thought provoking.

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“Several years ago my wife and I were attending an interfaith panel at _________ University. _________ is known as a politically, culturally, and socially progressive/liberal university community and almost all of the panelists reflected that basic mentality. There was a humanist chaplain from an Ivy League school, an Episcopalian bishop, a Reformed Jewish thinker, and several others who generally believed that the purpose of interfaith dialogue was for different faith traditions to see that we are basically all the same, save for a few small insignificant differences.

“However, one panelist came from a completely different perspective. He was a Muslim thinker from Chicago who was part of an interfaith group in that metro city. At one point in the panel discussion, he said,

“‘My best friend is a Southern Baptist pastor who tells me I am going to hell. But he’s my best friend because I know he loves me. He loves me enough to tell me what he really believes and not to pretend that our differences don’t really matter. In fact, to pretend that we do not have real differences actually diminishes the integrity of both of our faiths. So he is a committed Christian and that means that he thinks I am wrong. And I am a committed Muslim and that means that I think he is wrong. But we still love each other and acknowledging those differences is one of the ways that we show our respect for one another and our respective faiths. And that’s what gives us the ability to have real substantive discussions.’

“The whole place was just frozen in silence. It was a like an earthquake just happened in their heavy-handed culture of tolerance and “everyone has their own truth” and “we’re all right because we’re all basically the same.” And actually it captured in such a profound way that pretending we’re all basically the same is actually not tolerant at all because it does violence to the distinctiveness of all traditions and insists they all be like each other. It says Muslims aren’t allowed to be distinctively Muslim and Christians aren’t allowed to be distinctively Christian. But actually true tolerance, true respect, true love is honestly acknowledging the differences and loving one another in the midst of those differences.”

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I would love to meet this Muslim panelist.

I love his honesty.

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Muslims and Christians: Is There Just A Little Difference Between Us In What We Believe?

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Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

I have been so blessed to visit mosques in cities all over America:

Chicago, IL
Dearborn, MI
Cleveland, OH
Memphis, TN
Wichita, KS
Denver, CO
Des Moines, IA
St. Louis, MO
Anaheim, CA
Reno, NV
Green Bay WI
San Antonio, TX
Indianapolis, IN
. . .and so many more.

I always receive a warm reception in these mosques. Last summer, I visited a mosque in Michigan that was predominately made up of people from Bangladesh. I greatly enjoyed meeting the imam, his wife, his son, and his daughters. They were so kind and hospitable to me and to the Christian group I was with – yet another warm reception. We had a wonderful conversation outside the mosque before the prayer time about the great work this man and his congregation are doing to improve their community.

After our conversation, our group went inside the small mosque and observed the prayer time. The imam then shared with us about the five pillars of Islam and other Muslim beliefs and practices. We were listening to his presentation when his adult daughter spoke up and said something I’ve heard so many times from Muslims virtually everywhere I travel:

“There really isn’t much difference at all between Islam and Christianity – between what Muslims believe and what Christians believe.”

I really liked this imam and his daughter a lot. As I said before, they were both so kind. And as this young lady spoke, she had such a gentle, sweet look on her face. I debated briefly in my mind: “Do I contradict her in her place of worship? Or do I let it go?”

I chose to do the former.

I said to this young lady – and to the rest of the Muslims who were present,
“We can say that there is really just a little difference between what Muslims and Christians believe but. . .would that really be honest of us? Would that really be truthful?”

I went on to say,
“If we build a strong bridge of friendship, we can be honest enough to talk about – not just the similarities in our religions (and we truly have them) – but also, the differences. We have real. . .significant. . .differences.

“We have differences in who Isa – Jesus – is: is he a great Prophet or is he the (spiritual) Son of God?

“We have differences in Jesus and the cross: did Allah take Jesus to Paradise and put someone else looking like him on the cross or did Jesus really die on the cross for all our sins?

“We have differences in how we get to Paradise: do we get there by our good deeds outweighing our bad deeds or is Paradise a free gift received by faith alone?

“Let’s not deny these differences. Let’s talk about them! With respect. With love.”

Dear Muslim and Christian readers, I want to say the same things to you: let’s not be afraid of offending each other. Let’s really get to know each other. Listen to each other. Love each other. And yes, let’s talk about the similarities AND the differences in what we believe.

Let’s speak what we each believe to be truth – but speak it with love.

To do anything less would not only be dishonest, it would dishonor our faiths. . .

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Islam & Christianity: Is There Just A “Thin Line” Between Us?

Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

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“How Thin Is The Line Between Islam & Christianity?”

Moustapha Akkad’s 1977 movie, “The Message,” tells of an early event in the history of Islam – known as the First Hegira (migration). In this migration, Muslims fled to Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia and Eritrea) to find refuge.

Muhammad’s followers sought protection in eastern Africa because of persecution against him and his followers in Mecca from the ruling Quraysh tribe of Mecca. These early Muslims were reportedly boycotted and several of them were restrained in their homes. Some were stoned. Because of this, Muhammad ordered Ja’far ibn Abi Talib to take some of his followers – perhaps about 80 people, not counting small children – and emigrate to Abyssinia in 615 CE. Apparently, they did not all go at the same time but in small groups.

When the persecutors – the Quraish – got wind of this group’s plans, they sent a search party to forcibly bring this group back to Arabia. The group evaded them and made their way to Abyssinia. The Quraysh then sent Amr ibn al ‘Aas, a friend of the Abyssinian King, as an envoy to convince him not to give refuge to the fleeing Muslims.

When Amr requested that the “rebels” be returned, the Negus (meaning King or Monarch) – Ashama ibn Abjar – is said to have replied, “I cannot put souls into chains without first hearing them.” They were then taken before the king – supposedly a Christian – and his religious leaders to see if he would allow them to stay in peace, or give them up to be taken back to Mecca. The Muslims were called before King Negus and this is one report of their defense before him through Ja’far:

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The King to Ja’far: “Speak to me of Christ!”

Ja’far: “We say of Christ what our Prophet has taught us. That God cast his holy spirit into the womb of a virgin named Mary. And that she conceived Christ, the apostle of God. . . .”

Ja’far: “In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Relate in the book the story of Mary. How she withdrew from her family to a place in the east. How we sent to her our angel Gabriel who said, ‘I am a messenger from your God. To announce the birth of a Holy Son to you.‘” She said, “How can I, Mary, have a son when no man has touched me?” And Gabriel replied, “For your lord says it will happen. We appoint him as a sign unto man. And a mercy from us. It is a thing ordained.”

The King drew a thin line in the sand with his staff and said to Ja’far and the Muslims: “The difference between us and you, is no thicker than this line.”

“Not for a mountain of gold will I give you up. You may live in Abyssinia in peace for as long as you wish. And may God’s blessings be upon you on your return.”

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My dear Muslim and Christian friends, what do you think?

Is there just a “thin line” between us in what we believe and how we practice our respective religions?

Are the theological differences between us “insignificant” as some believe?

Are the differences “simply a matter of semantics”?

Should we only focus on our “similarities” – what we have in common – as some people like to say?

Or. . .if we truly value friendship and a deeper level/depth of relationship, can we talk honestly and respectively about our differences?

I submit to you the latter.

I submit to you that when Muslims and Christians take the time to listen to one another and build a strong relationship, they can talk peacefully about their differences – even real, significant differences.

I submit to you that while we have many things in common in what we believe as Muslims and Christians, we also have some huge, huge differences – especially about the way to Paradise.

Let’s talk about those differences.

Let’s not sweep them under the rug.

Let’s listen to each other and love each other.

Dear Muslims and Christians, let’s talk.

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My Dear Muslim Friends: I Love You Too Much. . .To Be Silent

Dear Muslim & Christian friends,

My Arab Muslim barber often says to me, “Mr. Mark, I love you too much!” I know he is using the word “too” with the meaning of “so” and it always warms my heart. Believe me, I feel the same way about him! He is a very special person to me and I love him.

A few years ago, I heard about a Christian woman in the Middle East who was meeting for coffee with several Muslim women. Suddenly, a Muslim man – a relative of one of the women – came into the room and began to preach Islam to the Christian woman. Among other things, he told her that her doom in hell was sure unless she repented and took Islam for her religion. I found her response very interesting. After a few moments of careful thought, she simply replied to him to him with real honesty and sincerity, “Hamza, thank you for telling me these things. Your message to me must be because you love me and don’t want me to go to hell.” She was saying in essence, You love me too much to be silent and I greatly appreciate it.”

In my own life, I remember an experience with a Muslim man from the Middle East who was attending a university in the United States. We became friends and had many wonderful times of discussion about faith issues – sometimes until 2, 3, or 4 in the morning. On one occasion, Omar related that he had walked by an American restaurant with another Muslim friend. As they looked in the window at those who were eating, Omar said with real concern in his voice, “Abdullah, all these people, going to the hell-fire.” I asked Omar for an explanation of his comment. He explained that in his mind – in his way of thinking – these people were not Muslims and were in danger of hell. I could see that it clearly pained him and I deeply respected him for that. He cared about the eternal destiny of those people and because of that care, it was hard for him to be silent.

Now some – if not many – of my Muslim readers may not agree with Omar or Hamza’s theology regarding who goes to hell but here is the point I want to make in this blog post today: we should not be silent about what we believe.

No, silence about finding a source of water is not a loving way to live when people you know are dying of thirst.

In light of this, please consider 3 thoughts:

#1) Whether you are a Muslim or a Christian, if you love someone, you don’t want them to go to hell. Isn’t that right? It disturbs you to think about it. It actually hurts deeply to think of someone – especially someone you care about – suffering that horribly and for that long in fire!

#2) To my Muslim readers: if you believe that submitting to Allah, obeying the Qur’an, and following the life and teachings of Muhammad is the only way to Paradise and that for a friend to knowingly reject these teachings will send him or her to the hell-fire, what do you do? Do you remain silent? No! As I understand it, it is your duty – your religious obligation – to “invite” your friend to follow the ways of Muhammad and embrace Islam (this is “dawa”).

#3) The same goes for my Christian readers: if you believe that following the ways of Jesus as taught in the Bible is the only way to Heaven and that for a friend to knowingly reject his teachings and sacrifice for sins will send him or her to hell, what do you do? Do you remain silent? No! Your love for God and your friend compels you to share the “Good News” of Jesus death and resurrection and his offer of forgiveness of all sins with your friend (this is “evangelism”).

So. . .as I close, I want to say to any Muslim who has spoken or will speak to me about your faith, thank you for caring for my eternal soul by speaking of the Qur’an and the teachings and ways of Muhammad to me. As in the story of the woman above, your message to me must be because you love me and don’t want me to go to hell.

In addition, I want to say to you, my dear Muslim friends whom I love: please allow me to share with you what I believe about Jesus, the man I believe to be the one and only Savior from sins and hell-fire that you and I – that all people – so desperately need. I say with heartfelt love and incredible concern: your eternity depends on how you view Jesus and what you do with him as a result of that view.

Jesus once said these words to a woman at a well in Palestine (Injeel, Gospel of John 4:13-14):

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

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I have found living water in the desert of my thirsty soul. It comes from Jesus.

It would indeed be a crime for me to be silent and not tell you about it.

I love you so much, my Muslim friends.
I love you too much. . .to be silent.

There Are Only 2 Religions In The World – Which One Is Yours?

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(The post below was first done in June of 2013. Because of a great conversation with two kind sheikhs and other Muslim men at a mosque, I thought it would be good to repost it. I hope it is thought provoking as you seek truth in this life and what we all want in the future – Paradise.)

Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

I believe there are really only 2 religions – 2 religious belief systems – in the world. Sounds crazy, right? No, I truly believe there are just 2 religions in the world.

In the first religious belief system, we can use the illustration of a ladder extending from earth to Heaven.

In this illustration, most of humanity attempts to “climb the ladder” to Heaven by right beliefs, good intentions, obedience to all kinds of rules, and the faithful practice of all kinds of rituals. The adherents of this religious belief system believe if they can just do enough, they can tip the divine scales and God will let them into a place of bliss, perfection, and reward. This religious system is called “good works.”

Those who follow this way of reaching an after death state of Paradise might call themselves “Buddhists” (using the 8-fold path of enlightenment) or “Hindus” (reincarnation – coming back over an over again in some new form), or something else. They might call themselves “Muslims” (practicing the 5 pillars, attendance at the mosque, memorizing the Qur’an, following the Sunnah, etc.) or “Christians” (going faithfully to “church,” practicing the “Golden Rule,” singing in the choir, reading the Bible, etc.).

A legitimate question about all of these people is, “What – or who – are they counting on to gain Paradise when they die?” Essentially, if they are trying to “climb the ladder” to Paradise by their good deeds, they are counting upon – and this is incredibly important – themselves. They are counting on their own performance, their own hard work, and their own spiritual achievements – in essence, their own goodness.

In the second religious belief system, we can also use the illustration of a ladder between earth and Heaven. But in this faith system, God in Heaven looks down upon humanity and lovingly sees that people simply cannot “climb the ladder” and get to Him. None of them can. All are helpless, all are hopelessly lost, and all are in need of rescue. All are in deep shame and in need of their honor to be restored. So God sends His mercy and compassion down the ladder through His prophets. He does this especially and uniquely through Jesus – Isa Al Masih. The prophet Isa – spotless and sinless (Qur’an 19:19) – takes upon himself the sins and shame of the whole world through the voluntary sacrifice of his life. He provides restored relationship with God in Heaven, forgiveness of sins, and the honor that all people need and crave.

This is indeed Good News but. . .there is a big IF: mankind must believe in Isa – who he is and what he has done – and follow him to the end. This religious belief system is called “grace.” Grace is simply receiving (accepting) by faith a gift that cannot be earned. In this case, the gift is the gift of forgiveness of sins and righteousness (right standing) before God and then the resulting gift of eternal life in Paradise.

2 religious belief systems: good works and grace.

So yes, I believe there are only 2 religions in the world. Which one is yours?

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(Postscript: All I want – all I passionately want – is for all people to see Isa Al Masih – Jesus – for who he is. I desperately want all people to put their complete trust in him and his sacrificial death so they can live forever in Heaven with God who certainly is full of genuine, undeserved mercy and compassion. If I can help anyone to find and follow that straight path, it is my complete joy, privilege, and honor.)

Ramadan Ended and the World Cup is Near The End – Gooooaaaallll?

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Dear Muslim friends,

Ramadan came and went a few weeks ago – as did Eid.

So I have a question for you:

As you finished Ramadan for yet another year, did you reach your goal – or goals?

Did you feel:

- closer to God?
- forgiven and clean?
- closer to your family?
- closer to the umma – your Muslim community?
- relieved that you don’t have to fast like this for another year?

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What next? How do you follow up Ramadan? Eid – of course. And watching the World Cup with 6 Muslim majority nations playing (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Senegal, Morocco and Tunisia). Both of these things were probably enjoyable for you.

But spiritually – after Ramadan and Eid – what will you do to try to please God? What will you do to cause your good deeds to outweigh your bad deeds on the Day of Judgment? What is your. . .goal?

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May I share something with you as a follower of Jesus?

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First the bad news:
I can’t EARN God’s love – and neither can you.
I can’t DO enough good deeds to get to Paradise – and neither can you.

But there is good news – really, really GOOD news:
God knew I couldn’t earn His love but He gave it to me anyway – because He is love.
God knew I couldn’t do enough good deeds so He sent someone who could – Isa – Jesus the Messiah and Savior.

It’s all found in the Injil in Ephesians 2:8-9.

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Jesus paid the debt we couldn’t pay.
Jesus died the death we wouldn’t want to die.
Jesus took our place on a cross.
Because he loves us.
It’s all found in the Injil in John 3:16.

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Eyewitnesses saw this death. And eyewitnesses saw Isa – Jesus – after he rose from the dead.
They went all over the world telling people this amazing news:
- salvation is a gift!
- you don’t have to earn it
- receive it
- take it
- it’s yours – by faith.

My Muslims friends, this salvation Jesus offers is truly free. Completely, totally free. But. . .it costs to follow Jesus. Your family, your friends, your umma may reject you. Disown you. Even harm you. But Jesus will never leave you if you invite him into your heart and commit yourself to follow him.

Yes, Ramadan has ended. The World Cup is getting near its exciting finish.

But. . .there is something so much more exciting:
Knowing that your sins can be totally wiped out. Your honor restored. Paradise insured.
Jesus will do all that for you if you ask.

I plead with you:
ask him today.

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I MUST Warn You: “Every Bridge To Paradise Is Out. . .Except One!”

Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

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Imagine yourself driving alone on an extremely cold, rainy night – the rain is pouring down, the visibility is low, the road conditions are slippery and dangerous.

Imagine that you near a large bridge ahead but somehow, some way, you are able to see that the bridge is not there! It has collapsed.

Miraculously, you are able to slide to a stop just at the edge of the collapsed bridge or you and your car would have plunged into the icy waters below. You would have surely been killed by the impact, drowned, or frozen to death. But somehow by the mercy of God you saw that the bridge was out.

What would you do then? Surely you would breathe a huge sigh of relief and thank God for saving you from dying. Right? But. . .what then?

There are people who are traveling behind you. Many people. Some of them you know. Some of them you don’t. But they are coming and if you don’t find a way to warn them, they will certainly plunge to the horrible doom you were rescued from.

In your mind you picture the horrible images of carnage and destruction that await them!

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Your mind races.

How can you warn them that the bridge is out?

1) Call 911 and leave it all up to someone else – the professional rescuers – to save people?
2) Quickly make a sign and hold it up for oncoming drivers to see: “Danger – Bridge Out Ahead!”
3) Stand on the side of the road and wave kindly – but timidly – to oncoming cars?
4) Stand on the side of the road and wave frantically – yelling and screaming at oncoming cars of the danger ahead?
5) Stand in the middle of the road – refusing to move – risking your life to stop traffic to save people from dying?

Or. . .would you do nothing because of what people might SAY to you if you tried to warn them about the bridge being out:

“Who do you think you are?”
“You shouldn’t be here!”
“You’re intolerant!”
“I know where I’m going and how to get there!”
“Mind your own business!”
“Get out of my way!”

Would you do nothing because of what people might DO to you if you tried to warn them about the bridge being out:

laugh at you. . .
mock you. . .
curse you. . .
throw things at you. . .or even. . .
beat or kill you.

What would determine how you would act on that cold, rainy night?

Fear of what people would think of you?

OR. . .

Concern for what would happen to them if they kept going?

The prophet Solomon (Sulaiman) said we must do something! God Himself is watching:

Rescue the perishing;
don’t hesitate to step in and help
.
If you say, ‘Hey, that’s none of my business,’
will that get you off the hook?
Someone is watching you closely, you know —
Someone not impressed with weak excuses.”
(Proverbs 24:11-12, The Message)

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Rescue. . .
don’t stand back and let them die.

Don’t try to disclaim responsibility
by saying you didn’t know about it.

For God, who knows all hearts, knows yours, and he knows you knew!
And he will reward everyone according to his deeds.”
(Proverbs 24:11-12, The Living Bible)

My dear readers – whether you call yourself a “Muslim” or a “Christian” or something else – I love you. I care about you. That is why it is my absolute duty before God to warn you that every spiritual “bridge” you are trusting in on the Day of Judgment is out except for one.

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The only “bridge” you can trust to cross over into Paradise is the person and work of Jesus.

God looked down upon you and me and knew that we cannot do enough good things in this life to cross over safely into Paradise. He sent the Prophets to warn us. They were mocked, laughed at, rejected, even killed. Then He sent Jesus. He sent him to die. To be sacrificed. In your place – and mine. For the shame and punishment of your sins – and mine. How do we respond? By accepting the free gift of that sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. By giving our life to Jesus in humble, loving gratitude and then becoming his lifelong followers.

This is the bridge that God Himself has built to save us.

There is no other bridge. There is no other way:

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (the Injil, the Good News according to John, chapter 14, verse 6).

Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one” (the Book of the Acts of Jesus’ Apostles, chapter 4, verse 12).

My dear friends, I WARN you because I LOVE you.

I warn you because I CARE.

Every bridge is out.

Every bridge except one. . .

That bridge. . .is JESUS.

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Postscript:

To my “Muslim” readers, please note that I am not trying to “convert” you to “Christianity” or becoming a “Christian” – at least not in the way most of you think about those terms. No! But what I am trying to do – boldly and unapologetically – is to plead with you to examine the claims of Jesus in the Injil. To read about his life and yes, his death and resurrection. To see that no one loves you like he does. To see that no one else has given their life for you like he has.

You can trust your good works to get you to Paradise but I MUST warn you. . . that bridge is out. Jesus is the bridge to Paradise and he is calling your name. He is calling you to follow him. Will you answer that call?

To my “Christian” readers, I fear for so many of you. Why? Because you are trusting in your good works to get you to Heaven. Maybe you said a “sinner’s prayer” but let me ask you, “Are you living for Jesus?” “Are you following him?” “Have you given him your life?” Or did you just pray at one time long ago for “fire insurance” but without real commitment to Jesus? It won’t work. I warn you. . .that bridge is out.

It’s time to quit playing games with God, with yourself, with your eternity. Jesus is the bridge to Paradise and he is calling your name. He is calling you to follow him. Will you answer that call?

As You Seek Allah This Ramadan, Know That I Will Be Praying For You

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My Muslim friends,

As you seek Allah this Ramadan. . .know that I will be praying for you.

May God bless you in amazing, unforgettable, indescribable, new ways.

May He reveal more of His glory than you can hold in your heart.

May the words of God touch your soul like never before.

May His love overwhelm you as you fast and pray.

May you dream His dreams and see His visions.

May you be a blessing to those who suffer.

May your family be healthy and happy.

May Isa be more real than ever.

May your prayers be heard.

I love you, my Muslim friends. I really do.

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What Happened To Isa’s Closest Followers? Did They Die. . .For A Lie?

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Dear Muslim friends,

The Christian celebration of Easter took place just a few weeks ago in many countries around the world. Easter is a time when Christians joyfully celebrate the resurrection of Isa – Jesus – from the dead.

I know that you do not believe that Isa – Jesus – actually died. I also know that you don’t believe as I do, that he rose from the dead. That he came out of a tomb and was seen by many eyewitnessesincluding his closest followers (called “Disciples” or “Apostles”).

But what happened to Isa’s closest followers? Do you know? Almost every one of them died a horrible, violent, martyr’s death. Did they lose their lives believing that Jesus truly died – and rose again? If Jesus did not really die and they knew it, did they die. . .for a lie?

The article below addresses these big, big questions.

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http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2009/04/what-happened-to-the-twelve-apostles-how-their-deaths-evidence-easter/

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It is very feasible to believe that all but one of the Apostles suffered and died a martyr’s death, even if we can’t be sure of the exact details.

Amidst some uncertainty, one thing is clear — the reason given for their death was the same in all accounts. They were killed because they proclaimed to have seen Christ die and then to have seen Him alive. They all died because of an unwavering, unrelenting claim that Christ rose from the grave.

(1) The Apostle James
Date of Martyrdom: 44-45 A.D.

James was the second recorded martyr after Christ’s death (Stephen was the first). His death is recorded in Acts 12:2 where it is told that Herod Agrippa killed him with a sword. Clemens Alexandrinus and Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History II.2) both tell how the executioner witnessed the courage and un-recanting spirit of James and was then convinced of Christ resurrection and was executed along with James.

(2) The Apostle Peter
Date of Martyrdom: ca. 64 A.D.

Although, just before the crucifixion, Peter denied three times that he even knew Christ, after the resurrection he did not do so again. Peter, just as Jesus told him in John 21:18-19, was crucified by Roman executioners because he could not deny his master again. According to Eusebius, he thought himself unworthy to be crucified as his Master, and, therefore, he asked to be crucified “head downward.”

(3) The Apostle Andrew
Date of Martyrdom: 70 A.D.

Andrew, who introduced his brother Peter to Christ, went to join Peter with Christ in eternity six years after Peter’s death. After preaching Christ’s resurrection to the Scythians and Thracians, he too was crucified for his faith. As Hippolytus tells us, Andrew was hanged on an olive tree at Patrae, a town in Achaia.

(4) The Apostle Thomas
Date of Martyrdom: 70 A.D.

Thomas is known as “doubting Thomas” because of his reluctance to believe the other Apostles’ witness of the resurrection. After they told him that Christ was alive, he stated “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). After this, Christ did appear to him and Thomas believed unto death. Thomas sealed his testimony as he was thrust through with pine spears, tormented with red-hot plates, and burned alive.

(5) The Apostle Philip
Date of Martyrdom: 54 A.D.

Philip was corrected by Christ when he asked Christ to “show us the Father, then this will be enough for us” (John 14:8). Christ responded, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father ‘?” (John 14:9). Philip later saw the glory of Christ after the resurrection and undoubtedly reflected with amazement on Christ’s response to his request. Philip evangelized in Phrygia where hostile Jews had him tortured and then crucified.

(6) The Apostle Matthew
Date of Martyrdom: 60-70 A.D.

Matthew, the tax collector, so desperately wanted the Jews to accept Christ. He wrote The Gospel According to Matthew about ten years before his death. Because of this, one can see, contained within his Gospel, the faith for which he spilled his blood. Matthew surely remembered his resurrected Savior’s words, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20), when he professed the resurrected Christ unto his death by beheading at Nad-Davar.

(7) The Apostle Nathanael (Bartholomew)
Date of Martyrdom: 70 A.D.

Nathanael, whose name means “gift of God” was truly given as a gift to the Church through his martyrdom. Nathanael was the first to profess, early in Christ’s ministry, that Christ was the Son of God (John 1:49). He later paid for this profession through a hideous death. Unwilling to recant of his proclamation of a risen Christ, he was flayed and then crucified.

(8) The Apostle James the Lesser
Date of Martyrdom: 63 A.D.

James was appointed to be the head of the Jerusalem church for many years after Christ’s death. In this, he undoubtedly came in contact with many hostile Jews (the same ones who killed Christ and stated “His [Christ's] blood be on us and our children” (Matt. 27:25). In order to make James deny Christ’s resurrection, these men positioned him at the top of the Temple for all to see and hear. James, unwilling to deny what he knew to be true, was cast down from the Temple and finally beaten to death with a fuller’s club to the head.

(9) The Apostle Simon the Zealot
Date of Martyrdom: 74 A.D.

Simon was a Jewish zealot who strived to set his people free from Roman oppression. After he saw with his own eyes that Christ had been resurrected, he became a zealot of the Gospel. Historians tell of the many different places that Simon proclaimed the good news of Christ’s resurrection: Egypt, Cyrene, Africa, Mauritania, Britain, Lybia, and Persia. His rest finally came when he verified his testimony and went to be with Christ, being crucified by a governor in Syria.

(10) The Apostle Judas Thaddeus
Date of Martyrdom: 72 A.D.

Judas questioned the Lord: “Judas said to him (not Iscariot), Lord, how is it that you will show yourself to us, and not unto the world?” (John 14:22). After he witnessed Christ’s resurrection, Judas then knew the answer to his question. Preaching the risen Christ to those in Mesopotamia in the midst of pagan priests, Judas was beaten to death with sticks, showing to the world that Christ was indeed Lord and God.

(11) The Apostle Matthias
Date of Martyrdom: 70 A.D.

Matthias replaced Judas Iscariot (the betrayer of Christ who hanged himself) as the twelfth Apostle of Christ (Acts 1:26). It is believed by most that Matthias was one of the seventy that Christ sent out during his earthly ministry (Luke 10:1). This qualifies him to be an apostle. Matthias, of which the least is known, is said by Eusebius to have preached in Ethiopia. He was later stoned while hanging upon a cross.

(12) The Apostle John
Date of Death: 95 A.D.

John is the only one of the twelve Apostles to have died a natural death. Although he did not die a martyr’s death, he did live a martyr’s life. He was exiled to the Island of Patmos under the Emperor Domitian for his proclamation of the risen Christ. It was there that he wrote the last book in the Bible, Revelation. Some traditions tell us that he was thrown into boiling oil before the Latin Gate, where he was not killed but undoubtedly scarred for the rest of his life.

(13) The Apostle Paul
Date of Martyrdom: ca. 67 A.D.

Paul, himself a persecutor of the Christian faith (Galatians 1:13), was brought to repentance on his way to Damascus by an appearance of the risen Christ. Ironically, Paul was heading for Damascus to arrest those who held to Christ’s resurrection. Paul was the greatest skeptic there was until he saw the truth of the resurrection. He then devoted his life to the proclamation of the living Christ. Writing to the Corinthians, defending his ministry, Paul tells of his sufferings for the name of Christ: “In labors more abundant, in beatings above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once was I stoned, three times I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeys often, in storms on the water, in danger of robbers, in danger by mine own countrymen, in danger by the heathen, in danger in the city, in danger in the wilderness, in the sea, among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness “(2 Cor. 11:23-27). Finally, Paul met his death at the hands of the Roman Emperor Nero when he was beheaded in Rome.

I believe that the deaths of the Apostles increase the certainty level of the historicity of the resurrection to a level that is beyond excuse for disbelief. People do not die for their own lies, half-truths, or fabrications. If the Apostles truly died proclaiming to have seen Christ dead then alive and ascend into heaven, Christ is who He said He was, God incarnate who came to take away the sins of the world.

Here are your three options concerning the Apostles:

1. They died for a lie and knew it (unsustainable do to lack of any reasonable motive).
2. They were all delusional and crazy (but this would take more faith than any option since you would have to explain how they all had the same delusion and craziness — many being at different places and different times).
3. What they said was true. Christ did rise from the grave and is who He said He was.

If Jesus Didn’t Die, Who Was That Man That Came Out Of The Tomb?

Dear Muslim friends,

Today Christians all over the world will celebrate “Easter.” Sadly, when you do a google image search using the word “Easter,” you will see mostly images of little rabbits, eggs, and spring flowers.

But Easter is actually the name given for the day over 2,000 years ago when Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead after being executed (by crucifixion). (You can read about the resurrection of Jesus and the empty tomb in the Injeel: Matthew 28:1-15, Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-47, John 20:1-29).

Do I believe Jesus was actually crucified and rose from the dead as the Bible claims? Well, as a first century preacher stated in a letter to early Christians:

“. . .if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

What this means is, I am basing my belief that I will go to heaven solely, completely, emphatically on 2 events that I believe to be entirely historical: the death of Jesus on a Roman cross for my sins and the subsequent resurrection of Jesus from the dead to prove he was who he said he was.

Is there any evidence that Jesus rose from the dead?

In this blog post, I quote a speaker and author, Josh McDowell, regarding evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

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EVIDENCE FOR THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS THE MESSIAH
by Josh McDowell

The body of Jesus, in accordance with Jewish burial custom, was wrapped in a linen cloth. About 100 pounds of aromatic spices, mixed together to form a gummy substance, were applied to the wrappings of cloth about the body. After the body was placed in a solid rock tomb, an extremely large stone was rolled against the entrance of the tomb. Large stones weighing approximately two tons were normally rolled (by means of levers) against a tomb entrance.

A Roman guard of strictly disciplined fighting men was stationed to guard the tomb. This guard affixed on the tomb the Roman seal, which was meant to prevent any attempt at vandalizing the sepulcher. Anyone trying to move the stone from the tomb’s entrance would have broken the seal and thus incurred the wrath of Roman law.

So. . .what are the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead?

EVIDENCE #1: THE BROKEN ROMAN SEAL
The first obvious fact was the breaking of the seal that stood for the power and authority of the Roman Empire. The consequences of breaking the seal were extremely severe. If the responsible people were apprehended, it meant automatic execution by crucifixion upside down. People feared the breaking of the seal. Jesus’ disciples displayed signs of cowardice when they hid themselves after his death and certainly would not have had the courage to fight off Roman soldiers, break the seal, and steal his body.

EVIDENCE #2: THE EMPTY TOMB
The disciples of Christ did not immediately go off to Athens or Rome to preach that Christ was raised from the dead. Rather, they went right back to the city of Jerusalem, where, if what they were teaching was false, the falsity would be evident. The empty tomb was “too notorious to be denied.” Paul Althaus states that the resurrection “could have not been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned.”

If the resurrection claim was merely a lie – some kind of hoax – the Jewish authorities would have lost no time in producing the body of Jesus from the tomb, thus effectively quenching for all time any rumor of his resurrection.

EVIDENCE #3: LARGE STONE MOVED
On that Sunday morning the first thing that impressed the people who approached the tomb was the unusual position of the one and a half to two ton stone that had been lodged in front of the doorway. All the Gospel writers mention it. Those who observed the stone after the resurrection describe its position as having been rolled up a slope away not just from the entrance of the tomb, but from the entire massive sepulcher. Now, I ask you, if the disciples had wanted to come in, tiptoe around the sleeping guards, and then roll the stone over and steal Jesus’ body, how could they have done that without the guards’ awareness?

EVIDENCE #4: EYEWITNESSES
Christ appeared alive to his closest followers – and to many others – on several occasions after the cataclysmic events of that first Easter. Claims that the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection were either illusions or hallucinations are unsupported by the psychological principles governing the appearances of hallucinations – namely that different people cannot see the same hallucination simultaneously.

Two of the most amazing appearances of Jesus after he rose from the dead are recorded in the Injeel, John 20:19-31. In the second appearance, one of Jesus’ disciples put his fingers into the imprint of the nails in Jesus’ hands and then made one of the most stunning statements of all time as he said these words to Jesus: “My Lord and my God!”

EVIDENCE #5: LIVING WITNESSES YEARS LATER
The New Testament accounts of the resurrection were being circulated within the lifetimes of men and women alive at the time of the resurrection. Those people could certainly have confirmed or denied the accuracy of such accounts. They were still alive and could be questioned.

EVIDENCE #6: THE DISCIPLES’ LIVES – AND DEATHS
The strongest evidence of all for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the way those early Christians lived – and died. We must ask ourselves: What caused them to go everywhere telling the message of the risen Christ?

Had there been any visible benefits accrued to them from their efforts – prestige, wealth, increased social status or material benefits – we might logically attempt to account for their actions, for their whole-hearted and total allegiance to this “risen Christ.”

Instead, those early Christians were beaten, stoned to death, thrown to the lions, tortured and crucified. Every conceivable method was used to stop them from talking.

Yet, they laid down their lives as the ultimate proof of their complete confidence in the truth of their message: Jesus died and rose from the dead.

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Postscript to my Muslim friends: how do you evaluate these evidences for the empty tomb – for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead?

I am respectfully assuming you will answer that the Bible has been corrupted and changed.

If so, may I humbly ask you:

Who changed the Bible?
When was it changed?
Where was it changed?
Why was it changed?
What is the evidence that it was changed?

Until I see evidence that the Bible was changed, I will maintain my belief that it is true and accurate. And I will maintain my belief in the evidences from that first Easter – evidences for an empty tomb. I am staking my eternal destiny on it and invite you to carefully and objectively examine the evidence for yourself – for your eternal destiny.

As always, I love you, my Muslim friends.

I really, really do.