The Apologetic Muslim

  

Something both wonderful and sad took place earlier this week. I was hanging out with a large crowd of students in the minutes before a midweek worship gathering at our church when I began a conversation with a wonderful young man that I will call Tahm.

We engaged in several minutes of very interesting conversation about travelling and our common interest in helping others. As the conversation continued and the service drew near this delightful guy shifted gears. It was then, with apologetic tones, he felt the need to inform me that he was a practicing Muslim—and the look he gave me that followed was one I will never forget. It said, “how will you treat me now?”

In September 2001 I was wrapping up my first collegiate tour of duty, finishing up a degree in communications, journalism, & public relations. I was surrounded on a daily basis by international students at a time in my life when, overnight, our nation turned hostile toward almost anyone of middle eastern ancestry. I remember how ugly it was. How afraid everyone was. I remember my Pakistani friend Zishon was whisked away to a safe place off campus in a storm of confusion. Zishon was a Muslim too. He didn’t identify with the hateful acts of violence perpetrated by those who claimed to share his faith.

That’s what I remembered this week when Tahm shared his faith with me. He was afraid of my response. It broke my heart. He wanted to know if he was in a safe place. 

Do I have strong opinions about Islam? Absolutely. Should I allow that to influence my treatment of Muslims? Absolutely not.

Many, many, many, times in life I completely blow it. I let Jesus down. I fail to respond as he may have in a given situation. But I think I got it right with Tahm. I invited him to lunch. I expressed my genuine desire to get to know him. And then I walked him to the sanctuary myself as the service started.

Jesus said that he came to “seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) That my friends includes anyone and everyone. But how often, I wonder, do our responses to people’s lives get in the way? How we respond to the vulnerability of those who walk into our lives says more about us than any sermon we can preach, book we can write, or song we can sing.

Thanks for reading. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Zacapa 2014: WHAT A JOY

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For ten days now Jamie and I have had the distinct pleasure of traveling with a group of the most selfless, courageous, and loving people I have ever known. They have endured physical discomfort, an endlessly rearranging schedule, and intense spiritual warfare—the likes of which we rarely ever recognize in the states.

I have watched them daily push through fatigue, sickness, and injury to proclaim the love and joy of Christ. I have cheered them on as they left personal fears behind—being God-prompted into never before contemplated situations. The shy have became powerful proclaimers of truth; the insecure, bold beacons of grace.

Through sweat and dust and heat the life-giving Spirit of Christ has remained at the centre. The presence of God the all-encompassing Source. The Gospel the Great Calling; and the lost the Chief Mission.

This week eighteen students from small town America (Russellville, AR) along with Jamie, myself, and our accompanying locals had the chance to serve alongside Greg Miller Ministries. Doing so we shared the Gospel will 2,780 people, prayed individually with 495 of them—and lead 207 to Christ. As well as helping to facilitate a worship experience where 250 more people were saved!

Rebekah, Dakota, Dimas, Brian, Ashely, Stacey, Morgan, Cara, Jeff, John, Jacob, Aaron, Katelyn, Ian, Tosha, Emily, Madisun, & Lizette….WHAT A JOY it has been to serve alongside you on this trip!

More to come soon….

Thanks for reading,
Nate

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December 14 – Jesus: Christ & King

Read: Acts 17:1-9

And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” (Acts 17:2, 3 ESV)

Jesus died. But he didn’t stay dead. He returned to life. He ascended, bodily, into Heaven. He went before us into death, and then into resurrected eternity, to prepare the path that who belong to the kingdom of God will one day travel.

Upon his conversion Saul of Tarsus, an infamous persecutor, became an enthusiastic proclaimer of Jesus. He often went into Jewish Synagogues to teach about Jesus, no doubt hoping to bring the truth to his people. He was articulate, and intelligent, persuading a great many people to open their hearts to Jesus—the Christ and King.

It was Jesus’ role as Christ which infuriated the Jews; but it was his role as King which the legality of persecution stemmed from. Salvation can come from no source but Jesus. That hasn’t stopped a multitude of people from attempting to save themselves, but it is folly.

Just as errant is the rejection of Jesus Christ as King. People often refuse to acknowledge any authority that is not of their own making. They want the throne of their lives left alone. We like to play King, Jesus is both Christ the Savior and the King of kings.

December 13 – To Be Saved

Read: Acts 16:16-40

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31 ESV)

Salvation is a simple thing. But bad religion has sometimes confused the subject. Silly, incorrect, and dangerous requirements, prerequisites, and conditions have crept in to something that was always intended to be incredibly simple.

People worry about what prayer to pray, what lingo to use, what physical demonstrations are required in order to be saved. But all of that is nonsense. They are distractions.

When the Philippian jailer wanted to know how he could be saved, Paul told it to him short and straight. “Believe in The Lord Jesus.” It isn’t magic. It isn’t even hard. It’s a simple change in the posture of your heart. And it makes the most important difference you could ever experience.

October 7 – Hell to the King

John 19:1-5

They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. (John 19:3 ESV)

One of the most demeaning aspects of the horrors visited upon Christ during his final hours before was the relentless mockery and brutality. The actions of ignorant cowards playing with powers beyond their comprehension, common soldiers employed as thugs by the religious elite brutalized Christ again and again. Their sarcastic jeers tearing through his compassionate heart like a scourge would rend his flesh. It was horror added upon horror.

Who would treat a king in such a way? But of course, they didn’t really believe him to be a king. He was something they couldn’t understand. However, they refused to acknowledge the possibility that he was the Son of God, in much the same way that modern skeptics refuse to acknowledge even the possibility of the supernatural.

The violence committed upon Christ was vulgar, excruciating, and barbaric. It was undeserved hell. Atrocities that would probably make us wretch to see in person. He did not deserve it. Yet he took it. He took it, so that what you and I deserve, actual hell, we do not have to experience.

September 26 – Denying Jesus

Matthew 26:69-75

And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” (Matthew 26:72 ESV)

Sometimes I stop and think about what Jesus must have felt concerning Peter and his other disciples. He knew what was going to happen to him. He knew how hey would all turn their backs on him when trouble began. Yet, still he chose them.

Have you ever denied Christ? Maybe not by what you said, but what about by what you did? Do you think Jesus knew you what you would do or say when he first chose you? I believe that he did.

The beauty of the finished work of grace that Jesus completed lies in the serene undeservedness of Christ’s extended forgiveness. We do not deserve it. We could never deserve it. We will never deserve it. Our actions, attitudes, and ethics so often testify to our wretchedness. But Jesus loves us, chooses us, and saves us, even when he knows that at some point we have or will deny him.

Peter was perhaps his closest friend and denied him. Peter went on to do incredible things. We each have denied Jesus somehow sometime, but he chooses still to love us and use us to carry out his will in this life.

September 16 – I Am He

John 18:1-11

When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. (John 18:6 ESV)

Armed men showed up with a secret team in the middle of the night to arrest Jesus. He had withdrawn to a secluded place he often visited for a time of private prayer and preparation with a chosen few of his followers. They came seeking him—knowing who he was, his reputation, and his power.

Jesus identified himself when the armed force asked for him. As he did they withdrew from him and fell before him on the ground. They were tripping all over themselves, taken aback by the power of his identity and his declaration. Why?

Because their reasons for approaching him were corrupt, whereas he was holy. Their power was founded on the broken rules of men, and his was seated in the foundations of heaven. Their identity existed based on the controlling fear of their office, while Jesus’ identity echoed from across eternity as the Son of God.

The identity of the Son of God bears weight. So much so that his life, death, and resurrection irrevocably altered the destiny of the universe. It was enough to make a mob fall over themselves, it was enough to confound the religious hypocrites, and it is enough to forever change the direction of our lives.