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Book Review: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Book Review: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity

I began reading this biography with very little knowledge about Muslim customs and beliefs, but Nabeel Qureshi offers us a unique windows into his early life, being raised in a devout Muslim home.  He gives us definitions and explanations along the way as he describes, in detail, the symbolism behind the expressions of their faith.  Qureshi points out the similarities between Islam and Christianity, but more importantly he expounds on the differences – how the western world thinks differently from middle-easterners in the very core of their beliefs.

Qureshi shares his deeply rooted passion for Islam and his discovery of evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and claimed to be God – evidence that directly contradicts what he had been taught. Unable to deny the arguments but not wanting to deny his family, Qureshi’s inner battle will challenge Christians and Muslims alike.

Engaging and thought-provoking, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” tells a powerful story of the clash between Islam and Christianity in one man’s heart and of the peace he eventually found in Jesus.  This is a must read book, especially for the Christian who wants to know more about Islam and how to tell your Muslim friends about Isa (Jesus).


EDIT: Allow me to add one thing.  This book gets very good reviews (4.9 on Amazon, 4.8 at Barnes & Noble, 4.54 on Goodreads.com) but I have noticed one common thread among those few who gave this book 1 star – their disbelief in the supernatural part of Qureshi’s conversion.  He asked for, and received, a series of dreams from God that led Him to the truth of Scripture.  (Read about it. It’s awesome.)  He clearly explains that the dreams didn’t save him, but they did point him to God’s Word where he had an encounter with Jesus.  I have absolutely no problem believing this, especially if we believe the Bible.  To quote Father Louis Gilbert:

“Two different Josephs in the Bible had what we might call ‘strange dreams’.  One became Pharaoh’s right-hand-man as a result and the other became the husband of Mary and the earthly father of our Lord Jesus.  Something they ate, was it? I think not.”

five-stars

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Posted by on June 17, 2017 in Book Review

 

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An Enthusiastic Second Fiddle

SecondFiddleWhen asked which was the most difficult instrument to play, the great conductor Leonard Bernstein said, “Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm, now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”

Personally, I really struggle with this.  My love language is “words of affirmation”, my personality has this built-in desire to be liked, and if I’m not careful, my actions (and sometimes my words) scream “LOOK AT ME” like a melodramatic toddler.  It can be difficult for me to get motivated when no one is watching or when becomes apparent that I won’t get any credit for a job well done.

Everyone enjoys a pat on the back now and again, but I thrive on them.  My wife sent me an encouraging text message a few weeks ago and I took a screen shot, printed it out, and taped it to my computer.  I’m looking at it right now, extremely grateful that my wife speaks my love language and affirms me on a regular basis.

Knowing all of this – and knowing my bent toward pride and puffery – I have to guard my motives carefully.  What do I hope to gain?  Why am I doing this?

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” -Galatians 1:10

I attended a meeting recently, for which I had done a considerable amount of behind-the-scenes work.  The organizer announced that he wanted to recognize several people who had made this event possible.  I adjusted my collar and made sure my hair was in place as he began calling out the names.  First were his business partners, followed by notable board members and then staff.  A quick assessment told me that he was going in order of importance and, in my pride, I assumed my name would be near the top of this list.  A few minutes later people stood all around the auditorium and I was still seated in my folding chair like a deflated balloon.  Even that fleeting thought – “he saved the best for la…,” was quickly dashed upon the rocks as everyone was seated to a round of applause.

My first thought was, “Well, that was a waste of my time.” followed quickly by, “I won’t do that again even if they ask me.”  But right away the Holy Spirit began to convict me.  “What’s your motive, Robert?  Did you do this in service to God and others?  Or just to be recognized.”  It was a humbling experience – a gut check – and now I praise God for it.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  -Philippians 2:3

It’s easy to be enthusiastic about your job when it’s more prominent, but when you feel like your labor goes unnoticed and unappreciated it can begin to feel like a grind.  When you go to work each day you may feel like you’re in a “nothing job” that gives little satisfaction, but remember, you can glorify God by your attitude and your motives!  In Colossians the apostle Paul reminds us:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  -Colossians 3:23, 24

Lord, help remind me every day that you are glorified when I work enthusiastically, knowing that my labor is for You and my reward comes from You, even if I’m playing second fiddle.

 

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2016 in Personal

 

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Wishing for Another World

HarryPotter_Dorothy_Narnia_PeterPan_and_Me

A few days ago I asked my Facebook friends to name books or movies in which the main characters travel, by any means, to another world.  And they did not dissapoint!!  The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Harry Potter, The Neverending Story, just to name a few!  Some of the most popular works of all time!  Technically speaking, I was only asking different worlds – alternate universes – but if you expand the list to include time travel in this world, the list grows even longer (see full list below).  I mean, how else could we get Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure on there?!

It’s fascinating to me that so many popular books and movies focus on this theme. The creator of Narnia, C.S. Lewis, once said,

“I have found a desire within myself that no experience in this world can satisfy;
the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

And the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that God “has put eternity into man’s heart.”  We were created with this longing that can only be satisfied by spending eternity in heaven with our Abba Father!  It’s in our very DNA (even if we don’t realize it) and it leaks out all over the place.  We were created for eternity, and bound by time… for now.

I sincerely believe ‘other-worldly travel’ is such a common theme in books and movies because writers and directors all experience this longing deep down inside.  It fills their dreams and fires their imagination.  Consequently, their created works become so popular because they strike a chord with every reader and every viewer.  We’re entertained by the thoughts of another world, because it reminds us in some small way that we were created for more than this.  There’s another world on the other side of death.  “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face.” -1 Corinthians 13:12

Just something I’ve been thinking about…  By the way, did you realize that every human being will live for eternity?  That’s right.  Gandalf was correct when he said, “Death is just another journey. One that we all must take.”  There is life after death in another place, but the choices we make here on earth will determine which place that will be – Heaven or Hell.  If you haven’t already, place your faith in Jesus Christ.  He is the only way you can get to heaven when you walk through the wardrobe of death.  Before you read any of the other books listed here, pick up a Bible and read the book of John.  It’s a great place to start.


Here’s the full list from my Facebook friends:

Disclaimer: I’m not familiar with everything listed (not even half), so I can’t be sure that all of these works fall under our theme of other-worldly travel or time travel, but it gives me a great list of books and movies to check out in the near future!

100 Cupboards – Book by N.D. Wilson
Alice in Wonderland
Aladdin (A Whole New World.. right?)
The Ancient One
Avatar (James Cameron’s… not the Last Airbender… although that may fit…)
Back to the Future
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (party on, dudes!)
Bridge to Terabithia
Children of the Shaft by Richard Gunther
The Chronicles of Narnia (everybody has read this, right?)
The Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker (if you don’t read anything else here, read this)
Deathgate Cycle
Doctor Who
Dragon Tales
Dune
Enders Game
The Expanse
Flowers in the Attic
Gulliver’s Travels
Harry Potter
Interstellar
John Carter
Jupiter Rising
Labyrinth
Land of the Giants
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
The Magic Treehouse
Mary Poppins (a personal favorite in my Top 10 movies… maybe Top 5)
Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood (never would have thought of this one)
The Neverending Story
Neverwhere
Peter Pan
Outlander
Stardust
Star Trek 5
Star Wars (the force is strong with this one)
The Summer Tree
The Sword of Truth series
Tennis Shoe Among the Nephites
The Time Machine
Tomorrowland
Water Babies
Watchers in the Woods
Where the Wild Things Are
The Wizard of Oz
Wrinkle in Time
 
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Posted by on April 20, 2016 in Personal

 

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Living in Tension

He was forced to leave his home along with his parents because of civil unrest in his native country. The President had called for a genocide against his people and it just wasn’t safe for them any longer. His refugee family found shelter in Egypt for a few years, then returned to the Middle East after the President’s death. He worked in his dad’s shop before becoming a preacher at the age of 30. Shortly after his ministry began, he was sentenced to death by the government, even though he was completely and totally innocent.

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International Harvest Festival – World Relief, Nashville, Tennessee

I must admit that I am living in a tension between compassion for refugees and concern about terrorism. Knowing that Jesus himself was, at one time, a refugee, and having met several political refugees personally, it makes my heart swell with compassion… but knowing what we know about recent attacks around the world and this apparent “trojan horse” method of terrorism, it gives me pause.

I don’t have any answers. Just questions really. What is the Biblical response? To close all of our borders for good to everyone? To turn away thousands of widows and children who, through no fault of their own, have been victimized by war and violence? How do we obey a Biblical mandate to both welcome the stranger and protect our own families? This is hard.

I’ve heard the grape argument. “If one grape in the bunch was poisoned would you eat any of them?” But we’re not talking about grapes here. We’re talking about souls. Jesus looked at the whole bunch and knew ALL of them were poisoned, yet he still chose to drink of the cup and die for the love of them.

There must be a balance. I do think it’s reasonable and prudent to pause immigration to review and revamp the process of screening applicants (and yes, I’m aware that in some countries a majority of the refugees are single young men… thus the enhanced screening process). It is not anti-refugee to enforce the strictest of security standards, to ensure that our country remains safe. But we cannot slam the door and wall ourselves in, ignoring “the least of these” who have very legitimate needs for shelter and security. We cannot be controlled by fear. To borrow from an article I read earlier today…

“Fear leads to hatred; courage leads to convictional compassion. And convictional compassion means differentiating between the radical Islamists who would destroy us and peaceful neighbors who stand with us in deploring such violence.

We are in a war. An unconventional war, of course, but a war nonetheless. Wars always bring out the best and worst in humanity. When future generations look back in time, let us hope they will see that we met these challenges with courage, not fear. In doing so, we obey the most frequent command in the Bible, ‘Do not be afraid.'”

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” -1 John 4:18

Join with me in praying for the families of the men and women who lost their lives this week in Paris. Praying for the refugees who have been driven out of their homeland, just like our Lord. Praying for the terrorist who believes Satan’s lies. And most of all praying that the Gospel will be shared and shown through the hands of those that reach out in love and compassion. Jesus is the only hope for this world and the people in it.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2015 in Ministry, Personal

 

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Future Me’s Problem

Future Me’s Problem

Last night, while answering the routine ‘how-was-your-day’ questions, Evelyn (9) said, “I left my math homework at school, but I’m not worried about it right now. That’s Future Me’s problem and I can’t do anything about it. Future Me will just have to deal with it tomorrow.”

I’m still not sure if this is irresponsible or brilliant… or both! Certainly “Future Me” had to deal with some consequences today when the future collided with the present, and more consequences are pending if “Future Me” doesn’t maintain her math grades.  Still, I have to admire Evelyn’s carefree attitude when it comes to circumstances beyond her control.  She is an honor roll student, so please don’t get the impression that this is a common occurrence, but forgetfulness can happen to the best of us.  I must admit, I would probably lose sleep over what may or may not happen when I had to face my teacher the next day, but to Evie… that was Future Me’s problem.  She was just going to eat supper, play with her little brother, take a bath, and go to bed.  I think we can safely assume that Future Me won’t have to deal with any stomach ulcers down the road!

Anxious PenguinAdmittedly, I’ve been battling with anxiety in my own life recently.  Anxiety about the future, the economy, abortion, terrorism, growing threats here in the United States and abroad, the plight of Christians around the world, the fast growing moral decay that is eating away at the foundations of our society like a cancer and spiraling faster and faster out of control.  *hyperventilates into a paper bag… oo-ee-oo-ee-oo-ee*

I know 1 Peter 5:7 tells us, “cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”  I know that, but it’s so easy to get overwhelmed with everything going on around us in the world and forget that God is indeed in control.  I’m (still) learning to calm my fears by spending time in prayer and in God’s Word.  God says “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”  (Psalm 46:10)  The Hebrew word for be still in this passage doesn’t mean to sit still and be quiet; it means to “let go”.  Let go of the things that you can’t control and know that He is God, He is on the throne, and He is in control.

I’m reminded of a little wooden plaque that used to hang on the wall in our kitchen when I was a boy.  We moved from Henagar to Rainsville when I was 12-years-old and I don’t recall seeing it since, but I remember it’s words very well.  Written on this plaque was a prayer called The Serenity Prayer.  You’ve probably heard it before.  It’s been often used and quoted:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I’ve prayed those three lines many times through the years.  That prayer, a memory from my childhood mingled together with memories of orange counter-tops and plaid wallpaper and my family sitting around a country kitchen.  It always takes me back every time I think about that little prayer.  But those three lines are actually a condensed version of a larger prayer; a wonderful, rich prayer authored by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in 1937.  Here is the prayer in it’s entirety:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

May we live our lives with serenity, courage, and wisdom.  I will not be anxious (Matthew 6:31).  I will cast my cares on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7).  I will not be afraid because God is with me, giving me strength. (Isaiah 41:10)  The future may (or may not) be full of trouble and hardships, but I’m trying not to worry about it.  That’s just something that Future Me will have to deal with.

SerenityPrayer3

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2015 in Family, Personal

 

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Don’t Let Yesterday Use Up Today

Don’t Let Yesterday Use Up Today

hymnal

I collect old hymnals. Most are from the early 20th century, but I have a few that date back to the 1800s. I love to admire the covers, all tattered and torn, and the delicate, velvety soft pages.  The musty smell evokes an image of a little country church with wooden benches and hardwood floors and a pot-bellied stove.  In a few of the hymnals you can find page numbers written on the inside cover, now almost faded with time. The strokes are thick and thin, obviously written with a quill and ink. One didn’t just pull out a ballpoint pen and jot these numbers down. These numbers were deliberate, they took some effort; undoubtably a few favorite selections of the singer.

As I thumb through the songs in these hymnals, by mind drifts back across the years and I imagine someone who has long since passed holding this very book and singing some of these same songs that we sing in worship today.  It may have been a father sitting on a church pew with his wife and kids, holding this very book and singing No.48…

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

A bit nostalgic, perhaps, but that’s what we do isn’t it?  In 1940, in an essay titled, “Look Homeward, Americans,” novelist Carson McCullers proposed that nostalgia is a “national trait for Americans…as native to us as the roller coaster or the jukebox.”  Even at my relatively young age I think back on my childhood as a time when summers were longer, the grass was greener, and cartoons were better.  Childhood was Saturday morning breakfast with Grandaddy and Slush Puppies from the Dime Store.

It’s in our nature to look back on the “good ol’ days” with fond feelings and block out the negative memories, but we are often falsely nostalgic.  Every age has had it’s share of problems.  Sure, your grandparents could buy a bottle of coke for a nickel, but they didn’t have running water, or toilet paper, or individually wrapped cheese slices.  They suffered through the Great Depression and two World Wars.  Life wasn’t all roses.  Even in my own family, I’ve come to realize that we’ve had our share of heartaches and trials that I was oblivious to as a child.

There’s an old Cherokee Proverb that says “Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”  I’m not saying we should throw it all out.  Nostalgia is what we do.  So keep the fond memories and smell the hymnals every now and then, but don’t make it such a focal point in your life that you can’t appreciate what God is doing today.  Don’t disdain the new because you long for the old.  Life changes, but He “changest not”.  Things will not stay the same, but you can move forward day by day for the glory of God.  As the Apostle Paul said to the church at Philippi,

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  -Philippians 3:13-14

Strain forward.  Press on.  Some say things are getting worse.  I say things have never really been as good as you remember.  But today… This is the day that the Lord has made.  Rejoice and be glad in it.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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When Life Lessons Backfire

When Life Lessons Backfire

IMG_1710I took all three kids to Stevi B’s (pizza buffet/arcade) by myself this week to give my wife a break (and let’s be honest, to earn a few brownie points in the process).  Part of the proceeds would benefit their school and the pizza is good, but the real reason the kids like Stevie B’s is the arcade.  You’ve been there before, or somewhere very much like it.  In the arcade you exchange cash for tokens, then the kids play their favorite games and win tickets.  Finally, at the end of the night, they add up their tickets to exchange the tickets for toys.  Sounds like fun, but I overlooked one little detail.  I forgot how long it takes for kids to decide what to get with their tickets.  Their little faces were pressed up against the glass for what seemed like hours, making life-and-death decisions.  “Super Bouncy Ball or Glow in the Dark Vampire Teeth?!? Dad, I’ve spent 383 tickets, but what can I do with my last four?!?”

I’ve never missed my wife more than I did in that moment.

Once they carefully selected their treasures we made our way back to the truck for the drive home.  Since the kids spent some of their own money in the arcade, I thought this would be a great time for a life lesson.  Our conversation shifted toward value and worth.  My daughter asked how much each ticket was worth.  I explained that each token cost twenty-five cents, but the number of tickets you received for each token depended upon your skill at the game.  The better you are a Skee-Ball, the more tickets you get per token.  Then I asked the kids to add up how much money they spent in the arcade.  The total was about five dollars each.  So I asked them to look at the cheap, plastic items in their lap and tell me if they were worth five dollars.  And that’s when I learned my life lesson.  My son looked up with wonder and amazement in his eyes and exclaimed, “I got all this stuff for just five dollars?! What a great deal! We need to come shopping here all the time!”

In my son’s eyes, you just couldn’t put a value on a blue plastic samurai sword that he had “always wanted forever”.  Then you throw in a ball, some glow-in-the-dark teeth, and a friendship bracelet… this was a king’s ransom.  I didn’t have anything else to say.  The words “value” and “worth” have never been so real to me.  I remember asking my Dad one time how much something was worth and his reply was, “whatever someone is willing to pay.”  It really is hard to put a value on some things because value is relative based on the object’s merit or importance.

As we drove along in silence and the kids played with their new treasures, my mind drifted to a few scriptures that describe our worth to our Heavenly Father.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” -Matthew 10:29-31

God cares for his creation.  In fact, not even one sparrow dies and falls to the ground without God noticing it.  To us sparrows seem so small and insignificant, but if God values the sparrows so much, how much more does He care for, and value us?  We are more valuable than many sparrows!  God knows so much about us that He even knows the number of hairs on our head! (insert joke about your friend who is bald)

Listen… sometimes you may feel like a worthless pile of plastic junk.  A bent and broken toy samurai sword that’s just one swing away from the trash, but when your Heavenly Father looks at you, He sees a King’s ransom.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2015 in Family, Personal

 

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