Roy Oksnevad is Director of Muslim Ministries at Wheaton College through the Billy Graham Center.
Aren’t All Muslims Committed to Their Faith?
We don’t realize just how much images from the media or “sound bites” shape our understanding of people or areas of the world of which we are not familiar. I met with my Muslim friend and asked him how many Muslims go to mosque. His response sounded very familiar. “Only about 10% of Muslims attend mosque. Of those attending mosque, most attend twice a year for the two Eids >> (or holidays).”
Recently, a friend invited me to his house to meet someone who had just arrived from his home country. As we talked, I heard his story of life in his country. Over several cups of tea, I noticed that his right hand shook. I soon found out that electrical shock was used to torture him for being in the wrong political party. He now suffers from nerve damage.
Joshua Project lists his country as 96.4% Muslim and as our conversation drifted to spiritual matters I was expecting some typical Islamic responses. To my surprise, this man’s desire was to learn about the Bible. He had no access to scripture in his country and he now wanted to read the Bible and learn about it. My friend who accepted Christ a little over ten years ago wanted me to share about Christ. So I gave him two gifts: a copy of The Life of Jesus Christ DVD >> (which is in 16 of the most common languages >> of Muslims worldwide) and a copy of a new DVD, The Jesus Accounts >> (which also is in his native language).
Our conversation shifted to his real desire—to understand the Bible. I started at the beginning, showing that the Bible was divided into two sections: the Old and New Testaments. I gave a brief overview of what the Bible is about. Then, I showed him how the Gospel of John 1:1-14 is tied to Genesis chapter 1. I pointed to the main difference between Islam and the God of the Bible. In Islam, the word becomes a book—the Qur’an. In the Bible, God’s Word becomes a person—Jesus Christ. Being a university-educated man, my new friend quickly grasped the significance of this and responded that he believes everything I was showing him in the Bible.
I didn’t encounter the typical objection that God can’t become a man or we Christians have made Jesus, whom they believe to be only a prophet, into a god. My new friend is seeing what religion is doing to his country. He has heard that the God of the Bible loves. He has only experienced oppression, hatred, and torture. He is looking for something that is authentic and builds up instead of destroys.
My new friend said that he was going to watch the DVDs that evening. Armed with an overview of the Bible, he wanted to read it for himself. When we get together next time, he said he will have questions for me.
What does ministry to Muslims look like for you? Have you seen God work in your relationships with Muslims? We would love to hear what you have experienced! We would love to hear about it! Let's continue the discussion on our facebook page >>
Posted September 25, 2012
Laurie Fortunak Nichols is Communications Coordinator at the Billy Graham Center.
What I See when I See the Dust of My Big God’s Feet
Growing up Catholic, I had a view of God that could be characterized by the passage of Isaiah 6:1-5:
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim…. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…"
There was an overwhelming sense of the bigness of God, the smallness of me, and the depth of my sin. God was magnificent. Magnificent in power, strength, holiness, character, physical size, in every way. Nahum 1:3b describes it this way: “His way is in the whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” To this day, I often find myself looking up at the puffy clouds on a sunny day and finding great comfort in knowing that my big God is walking around, overseeing his creation and tending to his work.
Admittedly, it was this very bigness of God, though, that made it impossible for me to draw near to him—I simply could not relate to him and could not feel as though I was worthy of drawing near enough to get to know him. It was a ridiculous idea really—trying to have a personal relationship with a God who was unfathomably large!
Indeed, when I accepted Christ as my personal Savior ten years ago, I discovered that it in fact was not a ridiculous idea, but the most brilliantly thought-out one I had ever heard. So I found myself on a journey to reconcile this large and magnificent God with one I was finding to be kind and gentle, full of compassion and goodness. I had fallen in love with a personal version of God—the “Jesus part” of the Trinity, who “when[he] knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
Somewhere along the way I did realize that the two—big and magnificent and personal and loving—aren’t distinct, but are in fact two very wonderful images of the same God who is manifested in too many ways to count. Consider the death and resurrection of Jesus. The same God whose holy wrath could only be quenched by placing his anger for sin on something, chose Someone to place it on. Himself. The same God whose love for the world brought him to humble himself for a people who hadn’t even asked was also the One whose eyes were too holy to even look upon sin.
To the human mind, this intersection of two seemingly opposite ideas—a big, holy, mighty God and a personal, loving, gentle God—is simply incongruous. But it works. And it is an essential component of the Christian faith, that if realized by each of us, could alter the very way we live our lives and interact with others. A.W. Tozer says it this way:
The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us.[i]
Isaiah phrases it slightly differently:
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy. “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit.” (Isaiah 57:15)
Our awesome and mighty God is also our friend. Our big and mighty God demands our worship and adoration, but he is also our greatest empathizer and our best shoulder to cry on. He holds the universe in the palm of his hand, but he also catches our tears in a bottle. He has complete sovereignty over life and death, but he also lovingly writes our names in his book of life. That is a paradox worth living and dying for.
Today, when I look up at the sky and see the dust of my big God’s feet, I also see the leaves on his trees, waving at me to and fro, to and fro. Saying hello. Reminding me that he is magnificent, but that he also, “having loved [me]… love[s] [me] to the very end.” And that’s true for you as well.
What's YOUR view of God? What images in scripture have blessed you in your walk with him? We would love to hear about it! Let's continue the discussion on our facebook page >>
[i] Tozer, A. W. 1961. The Knowledge of the Holy. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 83.
Posted September 15, 2012
Chris Castaldo is Director of the Ministry of Gospel Renewal at the Billy Graham Center.
In the years leading up to World War I, frustration mounted in Europe. Despite the optimism of the Industrial Revolution's technological development, many sensed something was missing. Romanticism had failed to deliver the kingdom, and economists' cheerful hope was gradually exposed as a façade. The Irish poet W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) captured the mood in his work The Second Coming:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The pain of World War I only intensified the agony. The technology that promised peace instead proferred war. Huddled in their battlefield trenches, men looked down into their own souls and found an even uglier form of death and dysfunction. Edvard Munch's painting The Scream conveys the emotion. The agonized posture of a figure standing upon the board-walked bridge against the tumultuous red sky makes the point. The brooding angst of humanity cries for expression.
Sometimes described as the 20th century's most famous Christian physician, Paul Tournier (1898-1986) was a Swiss clinical doctor who concentrated on pastoral counseling. His classic book Guilt and Grace has an especially instructive chapter titled "Everything Must Be Paid For." Drawing from the resources of Reformed theology, Tournier suggested that the angst of humanity is in some sense derived from the awareness that "everything must be paid for." He wrote:
The idea that man defiles and degrades everything he touches, although it does not reach such intensity in healthy people, nonetheless exists in every one. It is a measure of the existential guilt which every man bears vaguely within himself, the Promethean sense of man's curse (p. 177).
In the deafening din of guilt, the human soul thirsts for deliverance. Minds are haunted on returning to past faults, remembering some dishonorable conduct or failure, perhaps a scalpel of a remark that cut into a friend's life. Even though you may have said it in ignorance, you later observed the consequences, which remain with you to this day.
We live in the shadow of such guilt, and none of us, even the most circumspect, can avoid it. There is a corner of every house, including the most immaculate, that is in disarray, stained with the dirt of this world. Whenever you visit that corner in your heart, where injurious patterns of guilt reside, the voice of condemnation clears its throat and screams.
Even as Christians, cleansed and forgiven, we still often dwell upon failures from the past, forgetting that our guilt has been liquidated by the Lord Jesus. Through his death and victorious resurrection, Christ emancipated us from the gnawing chew of guilt, reconciling us to himself, to his forgiveness and his peace.
God Has Paid
The blood of Jesus is more powerful than any moment in our past. The future tense of Old Testament hope ("behold, the days are coming”) has become the emphatic present ("the Kingdom of God is in your midst"). This makes all the differences in the world. It is also the point where Tournier calls down fire from heaven. After exploring his "payment required" notion, he presents a stunning chapter, "It Is God Who Has Paid." You might want to close your office door, take off your shoes, and kneel before the Father as you read this following quote:
But the wonderful announcement of God's free grace, which effaces guilt, runs up against the intuition which every man has, that a price must be paid. The reply which comes in the supreme message of the Bible, its supreme revelation; it is God himself who pays, God himself has paid the price once for all, and the most costly that could be paid—his own death, in Jesus Christ on the cross. The obliteration of our guilt is free for us because God has paid the price (p. 185).
No human wish or vow can evoke divine grace. It is purely a gift. Jesus is our personal substitute, having borne our sin, taken our place, embraced our curse, died our death, and grasped our guilt. To underscore the point, before bringing his atoning sacrifice to completion, Jesus declared, "It is finished!" In this simple sentence, our Lord delivered the most definitive response ever marshaled against injurious patterns of guilt, one that we would do well to reiterate whenever we hear guilt's hellish scream. It is finished.
How has the atoning work of Jesus on the cross comforted you in the midst of condemnation? How have you found Jesus Christ to be your great Deliverer? We would love to hear about it! Let's continue the discussion on our facebook page >>
Posted September7, 2012