Monthly Archives: December 2020

Santa Vs. Muhammad!

In the broad scheme of things, although antiquity has blunted the keen edge of certainty, they didn’t miss by much. Hardly more than a handful of decades and a few hundred miles.

Nicholas, long before he was sainted and much longer before he morphed and devolved into Santa Claus, spent time in the Holy Land, walking (you’ve seen the brochures) where Jesus walked. This happened 250 years before and 800 miles north of where Muhammad shuttled between Mecca and Medina.

What if time and geography had been ever so slightly shifted and they had met? Two young, ambitious orphans. One disposing of a fortune, the other dreaming of getting his. Both with hearts for God. Would they have discussed theology? Debated the nature of Jesus? Would the argument have gotten heated under the Middle Eastern sun?

We’ve been told St. Nicholas didn’t shrink back from defending the biblical, orthodox understanding of the Trinity. At Nicea in 325 A.D., smarty pants from all over gathered to hammer things out through much discussion, debate, and presumably prayer! At a particularly tense point in the process, Nicholas punctuated his point with a potent, though possibly apocryphal, smack to his opponent’s face.

Arius, the accosted one, believed Jesus had been created by God and was subservient to him. Nick would have nothing of it and his views prevailed. You’ve likely read the results: We believe in, “one Lord Jesus Christ. . .begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father.” Thereby affirming the monotheism of Christianity.

What if Nicholas and Muhammad had met? What if Santa, sans slap, had convinced the young reformer that Jesus was more than a prophet, and God was so much bigger and better than he’d imagined? What might the world look like today?

But they didn’t meet and we’re left to wait for the full resolution of God’s purposes for Muslims. We wait for, and somehow even join in, the fulfilling of Simeon’s prophecy that this wee child would be, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.”

Wait with hope, my friend. Join with great vigor and all the wisdom, courage and energy with which God graces you. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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Bet You Didn’t Know This!

Sometimes it seems like the only way to get in the media as a Muslim is to blow something up! Or get driven out of your homes by the people running your country. I guess if you live in a Muslim majority nation, most everybody in the news would be Muslim. But where I live, you’ve really got to do something to get noticed.

I’d like to wave a flag for a couple of Muslims who did something extraordinary, something that will directly and positively affect our lives, and do so in the next weeks and months.

Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci have been married since 2002. They are both children of Turkish immigrants to Germany. Together they built and sold a billion dollar medical research company. Their latest accomplishment is to be the first to develop an FDA-approved vaccine for COVID 19.

They’re the brains behind the Pfizer vaccine now being rolled out across the US and elsewhere.

When the intrepid health care worker swabs your arm in the coming days, as she raises then plunges the needle, will you join me in thanking our Father for this Muslim couple and their contribution to the purposes of God?

To be honest, I could not document with certainty that Sahin and Tuereci are Muslim. Several articles said so, sans sources. However, since over 95% of Turks practice some form of Islam, it’s a pretty safe bet.

Because I’m feeling an extra measure of Christmas feistiness right now, let me pose this question: Will some people avoid the vaccine because it was developed by Muslims? I don’t know, but I’m tempted to toss that little factoid into conversation just to see what happens! Of course, you’re more spiritual than me and would never do that! 

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Set Free the Oppressed. Proclaim The Year of God’s Favor

Today is Human Rights Day. As you might imagine, with Coronapalooza running amok, celebratory events are pretty subdued and mostly virtual. Around the world people commemorate the United Nations’ adoption on Dec. 10, 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The theme this year is Recover Better.

Even the most cursory list of human rights struggles around the globe crushes like a load of sand. I’d like to briefly highlight just five of the more significant crisis situations various Muslims face. (You could name more.)

Uyghurs: China continues its multi-year effort to subdue and eventually eliminate this Muslim minority group. Pray that a Biden administration will continue the pressure for change initiated by the Trump White House.

Yemen: A half decade long civil war has resulted in nearly 4 million people driven from their homes and 24 million desperately in need of aid.

Rohingya: Three quarters of a million Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since the summer of 2017. Pray that a more generous refugee policy in the U.S. will allow many to find new life here.

Kashmir: Following a change to the Indian Constitution initiated by Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Modi in the summer of 2019, the entire state of Kashmir was locked down. Internet and cell phone service was cut and thousands were arrested.

African victims of Boko Haram and Al Shabaab: The Islamic forces of Boko Haram in the west and Al Sabaab in the east have continued to reek devastation on both Muslims and Christians.

Respond to these situations if and as God leads you. I ask only that you breathe a quick prayer for justice to flow like a river over those who suffer so that this time next year we rejoice at the deliverance he’s brought for many.

If you’re feeling feisty, share this brief blurb on Facebook. You could also join me in making this image, the logo for Human Rights Day, your profile pic for the day: 


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News that Cuts to the Heart

Boy, there’s a lot of news these days, isn’t there? Such craziness swirling around! Right in the midst of the hype and wildness, two gut-punch stories hit my news feed this week.

Armed bandits, likely a Boko Haram derivative, massacred 76 farmers in the rural northeast. Reports haven’t indicated if the victims are Muslims or Christian, but did say “the massacre set a new benchmark of brutality.”

Four Christians were killed, including one who was beheaded, probably by an Islamic State group in rural Sulawesi. The terrorists also burned homes and a church.

As someone who advocates for Christians to love and reach out to Muslims, I mourn these events, but also worry about the ammo they provide for those who oppose Muslims.  And I sense resentment, even hatred, growing in my heart toward the perpetrators and those who encourage them. If you share these feelings, what can we do?

At a minimum, I think we should ask, for ourselves and others, these three questions:

What are the nuances?
It’s tough for me to imagine a scenario in which it’s ok to cut off someone’s head. I believe it’s always (or nearly so) wrong to kill another person. That said, there’s always (or nearly so) nuance, back story and motivation I don’t totally understand. The real reasons, though not justified, are more sophisticated than, “Muslims are backward, evil and violent.”

Are Muslims inherently like this?
If someone argues convincingly that the Quran advocates such activity and therefore non-violent Muslims are bad Muslims, I might concede the point. But then I’ll go on to say, “How about we start with inviting those billion and a half ‘bad Muslims’ to follow Jesus?”

If these people are enemies of my sisters and brothers, how do I love them?
For starters, we pray for them. As we intercede for victims and families of terrorist attacks, let’s pray for Muslims who’ve bought the lies and those headed down that path. Then, as God directs and gives grace, we go to Muslims: Down the block, in a nearby city, via Facebook or by moving to the other side of the planet.

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