Category Archives: Popular

God at the Hajj

If you were going to slip away for a few days before school starts, where would you go? The beach? The mountains (I have guest rooms!). Maybe an amusement park? How about joining two million others for the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca called the Hajj? The weather forecast is clear if a little toasty.

This year nearly 8000 teams of helpers will oversee every aspect of the gathering which runs from August 9 to 14. I imagine the Hajj is an economic boon to Saudi Arabia, but the cost of cleaning up after the party might make it a wash.

One of the five pillars of Islam, the Hajj is a requirement for all Muslims who are physically and financially able. It involves a series of rituals and prayers, and for many Muslims is a highlight of their lives.

You know who else will be in Mecca next week, right? God. And this year I’m wondering what God might want to do for Muslims during the Hajj.

Give that a moment’s thought. What does God want for Muslims as they experience this event? Here are some guesses. I say guesses because I don’t want to be cavalier about knowing the mind of God and because God probably wouldn’t aliterate! (Tweet this.)

Safety: Crowd panic and other miscues have caused significant loss of life before. Let’s pray for protection for the pilgrims.

Surrender self-righteousness: One of the great traps of the Hajj is the mixed-up sense of having earned merit with God.

Serious conversations: As people gather from all over the world, I can see God encouraging conversations about justice, who He is and what He wants.

All of these fall under the broader category of “abundant life:” The freedom, hope, joy and peace that Jesus said he came to bring. Join me in praying for that abundant life for Muslim pilgrims in these coming days.

Share your thoughts about what God might want for Muslims on the Hajj in the comments below. 


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Muslims, Christians, Jews and Israel. Oh my!

I suppose I’ll never forget an evening long ago, walking the bustling, late-night streets of Irbid, Jordan where I was spending the summer. The temperature was perfect, shawarma smoke hung in the air and the combination of exotic and genial nearly burst my Hoosier heart.

“You’re from the United States,” a new friend asked as we conversed on the street.


“How many states in America?”

“Fifty,” I replied, pretty sure I was right but wondering where this was going.

My friend laughed, cuffed me on the shoulder and said, “And Israel is fifty-one?”

With that comment a fresh brick was shimmied down into the mortar of my mind, starting a whole new structure of thought: “These guys think this about us. Do we really act the way they think we act? Do we believe what they believe we do? Do I? What do I believe about these things and really, why do I believe that way?”

A powerful little quip, eh?

Muslims, Christians, Jews and Israel. There must be a bigger can of worms to open, but none comes to mind right now!

How do we think about the laundry list of issues bound up in this? And how does current Christian thinking affect our relationship with individual Muslim friends?

I think the assumption, at least in broader, American evangelical culture right now is this: As a Christian, I must support Israel in an absolute, condition-free way. This is what the Bible teaches. Since Muslims are the enemy of Israel, I must be opposed to Muslims. I can’t pray for the peace of Jerusalem and support Muslims at the same time.

If accurate, this is gravely troubling and I would love to hear your thoughts. What are the salient points in this debate? How are we to think and act? What does the Bible really say? What do Muslims really think? What should we read to help us navigate this?

Got some thoughts to share? Please do so below.


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Watch Out for Those Fast(ing) Little Muslims

A good bud recently sent a link to an article describing legal action the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund took against two school districts in the Seattle area. According to the article, “The schools are accused of implementing pro-Ramadan policies that are being followed during the Islamic holy month. . . .”

It seems the Washington chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) sent an email advising schools how to care for Muslim students during Ramadan. They encouraged greeting Muslim students with Ramadan Mubarak (Happy Ramadan), providing a location to sit out lunch and not scheduling finals on Eid, the celebration at the end of Ramadan.

At least two school districts passed the guidelines on to their principles and teachers. When a teacher and some parents complained, the FCDF stepped in, saying the schools were, “running roughshod over the First Amendment’s mandate of government neutrality toward religion.”

To me, the CAIR guidelines seem more a helpful tool for schools with growing Muslim populations than advocacy for special treatment or something more nefarious. Yet the media reports generally don’t see it that way, sometimes emphatically decrying the situation.

So what do you think is going on here?

  1. Is it a component of a slippery slope toward too much Islamic influence, even domination?
  2. If you can’t say Merry Christmas in school, you should not say Ramadan Mubarak?
  3. Christianity is losing its status as the religion of the state and Muslims are the ones who currently get the blame?
  4. Something else entirely?

My initial, admittedly cynical, thought is that the alarm is designed to get page views and generate ad revenue. And (really cynically) maybe to keep those Muslims and other foreigners in check. But I honestly want to understand better what’s going on. What are your thoughts? Care to comment? I’d be grateful if you did.

Want to hang out with the tribe? If you’re connecting with Muslims on a regular basis and would like a weekend of connecting with others like you, attend one of two upcoming gatherings. No speakers or workshops, just like-minded followers of Jesus sharing wins and losses, encouraging each other and seeking God together. Northwest: June 14-16. Southern California: September 20-22. Email me for details.


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What If We’re Over-run?

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A friend who’s lived among Muslims for decades and is way smarter than me says every Muslim hopes in their heart that Islam will take over the world. A Muslim Connect reader who’s more honest than me confesses to being mildly “triggered” by that notion.

How about you? Do you wonder about that? Worry about it?

First: If so, what are we fearing about a Muslim take over? Losing our way of life? Suffering of some sort? And what’s beneath that? If I dig down, I find that my worrying lands on a sad assumption that God’s getting beaten. Or more likely that I’m quite mistaken in my understanding of God.

Secondly, if it’s true that Muslims are trying to take over the world, what is the biblical response? I’m honestly interested in your thoughts on this. What does the Bible say we should actually think and do, whether that supports or contradicts American (Or your country’s) ideology?

Third, do suppose others wonder about being overrun? Do Muslims worry about Christians taking over the world. What do non-Christians feel when they see a Christmas card or song quoting Isaiah 9.7
“Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end. . . from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

It’s vexing sometimes. I honestly believe Jesus will reign on the earth. And that he won’t make everyone to follow Islam, as some Muslims believe.

In the meantime, though, there’s plenty of pain and challenge to go around. Jesus’s words warn and encourage, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”


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Muslims in the House! And They’re Girls!

My Post (50)Here in America, we’re still decompressing from one of the liveliest mid-term elections in memory. My apologies if you were feeling happy to not think of politics for a bit and then this email drops into your box!

I’m not very politically sophisticated so when I read that two Muslim women had been elected to the U.S. House, my reasoned and philosophical response was, “Hey, that’s cool!” And I stand by that!

Rashida Tlaib is a mother of two and the oldest child of Palestinian parents. She was born and raised in Detroit. She’s been serving politically in Michigan since 2004.

Ilhan Omar was born in Somalia. When she was ten her family fled the civil war to a refugee camp in Kenya then to the US when she was fourteen. At seventeen, Omar became a US citizen. She served in various capacities before being elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016.

Since being female and Muslim are only two facets of who these women are, we shouldn’t tokenize them or expect them to speak for all Muslims. Their constituents put them in power based on their track records and in hopes of what they will accomplish in office.

I might not share all of their political views or religious beliefs but I think they have something to say and that we’d be wise to give consideration to their voice. And I’m happy to live in a place where things like this can happen and where we now have a Congress that looks a little bit more like the country. (Tweet this.)

What do you think? Is it a good thing that Michigan and Minnesota put Muslim women in the House? Does this raise concerns for you? Please weigh in below.


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What if a Muslim Does Something Right?

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I had a troubling chat at church last week. A good guy I’d never met before, who’s recovering from a stroke, told me some of his story, including a move the day before. He shared with gratitude and delight how the local Mormon church had rallied to help him and his wife, “They brought trucks, a bunch of people. It was great. Within a few hours everything was out of the old place and into the new one.”

Well, yay for this guy. But this kind of bugged me and I’m not sure why. I don’t think it’s because our church should have done the helping and we dropped the ball. We didn’t know they were moving.

I’m concerned that I just don’t want Mormons doing good things because I have them in a category of “people who don’t believe correctly.” So what happens when people who don’t believe correctly actually act correctly? Should we celebrate it? Or is it maybe a risky thing because others might be drawn into their incorrect beliefs?

I think maybe we do this with Muslims too. You probably saw on the news last week that a young Muslim man near Paris stabbed his mom and a sister to death. This is evil. It also fits in with a general narrative that Muslims do that kind of thing. What didn’t make headlines here was the Eid Al Adha related contributions of maybe thousands of Muslims to flood victims in Kerala. There are other reasons, to be sure, but I wonder if we don’t see what doesn’t fit our narrative.

Do I feel the same dissonance when a Muslim does something good. If they’re wrong, can they do something right?

You may have some helpful thoughts on this. If you can spare a minute to comment below, the rest of us would like to hear them.


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Extinguish Hell and Burn Down Paradise

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If you’re like me, you probably don’t expect renowned Islamic scholars to be women. But a friend recently told me about one named Rabia, who lived from 717–801AD and is considered one of the foremost Sufi saints.

Rabia said something which has had me thinking since I heard it, “I want to put out the fires of Hell, and burn down the rewards of Paradise. They block the way to God. I do not want to worship from fear of punishment or for the promise of reward, but simply for the love of God.”

Whoa! Is that me? You? Should it be?

Would I still follow God (to whatever degree I actually do now!) if I was not concerned about avoiding the horrors of Hell or eagerly hoping to gain the restful joys of Heaven? And in what way, if any, is my honest response to this question indicative of my character and spiritual maturity?

C.S. Lewis reminds us of “the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels,” and wonders if, “ Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.”

I certainly don’t want to go to Hell and I definitely look forward to the joys of Heaven. But in my heart, I want to desire God above all, desire God more than avoiding Hell, more than enjoying Heaven, desire God principally because of the greatness and love of God. This is what I appreciate about Rabia’s bold declaration: It moves God to the center, to his proper preeminence. I often need that reminder.

Would you share your thoughts on this? You’ve likely considered ideas and aspects that have not entered my mind yet. Thanks for the challenging thought, Rabia. May Muslims and Christians all over give it fresh consideration.


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Ramadan Ends. World Cup Begins.

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Please see the special note at the end of this post. 


Two huge events for many Muslims take place today:

Ramadan ends and the World Cup begins. Can’t you just feel the religious fervor swirling around both of these?

For Muslims who’ve truly fasted this past month, arriving at the end of Ramadan is a big deal. They’ve reached a significant goal and look forward to celebrating the end of the fast. If you know any Muslims, this is a great time to wish them well. If you have sufficient relationship, ask them how it went and how they’ve been affected by the month of fasting. Affirm what you can and share their joy.

If celebrating the end of the fast weren’t enough to launch a great weekend, today also marks the beginning of the World Cup. Six Muslim majority nations will be playing: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Senegal, Morocco and Tunisia. Maybe, just maybe, this is a chance for some good news from the Muslim world. It certainly is a good chance for us to hang out with some Muslim friends. Bonus points if you show up to watch a match bearing halal snacks!

I think a Muslim Connect World Cup Contest is in order! Guess which Muslim nation team will advance the farthest. I’ll pick a random name from those who guess correctly and send you a $10 Amazon certificate. List your name and choice in the comments below or on Facebook by June 20th.

May God find us rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn!

Special Note: The Muslim Connect email and blog is free. Always has been. Always will be. But twice a year I invite you to participate in this effort by making a contribution to offset the costs and push it forward to more people. Together we can encourage many, inform some, and by God’s grace invite Muslims to enjoy the abundant life Jesus offers. If you’re finding value in Muslim Connect and would like to see it go forward, please make a gift here. Thank you very much.


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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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I’ve recently connected with a long-time hero of mine, author, entrepreneur and Jesus follower Greg Livingstone. Greg has famously said, “No country is closed to missionaries if you’re not worried about getting out.” Today I want to share a snip of a related conversation we’re having about civil disobedience.

Greg: Is this the time for those called to peoples who have no access to biblical witnessing believers, to practice civil disobedience if ordered to stop and leave the country?

Me: Well, I. . .uh. . .

Greg: Here’s what I’m thinking: If a long term worker fails to have their visa renewed, should they continue staying and sharing? Would that build courage in new local believers? Would that follow the teaching of Jesus and the example of many, including Gandhi and MLK?

Me: I can see that, if the person is a single, older man. I’m unlikely to advise a husband and father of three to risk imprisonment and the resulting implications for his family. Does that mean I’m shaped more by Focus on the Family than the New Testament?

Greg: Well, Jesus did say hard things like, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” and “I send you forth as lambs among wolves.”

Me: Right, but he does go on to say, “. . .be smart as snakes and innocent as doves.” I wonder if snake smart sometimes means, in the immortal words of Top Gun, “It’s better to retire your aircraft and live to fight another day, than to push a bad position and lose.”

Greg: Could be, but here’s my point: If God has called you to teach the way of Jesus to a people who’ve not heard, maybe you should not too readily empower their government to say if you can obey or not.

Please weigh in with your thoughts, agreement, pushback, “Wait, what about’s?” and additional issues that matter in this ongoing conversation. Thank you.



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She’s Not Gonna Blow Up the Walmart.

A long time ago I lived in a town where almost everyone was white. They were really nice, just all white. One day we heard that students from Saudi Arabia were coming to our local university. “How cool,” I thought. Some of the guys at church, not so much.

To their credit, they came by their thinking naturally and for the most part weren’t malicious. But they were nervous. “Weren’t Saudis flying the planes that wreaked 911 havoc?” (Objectively true.) “Aren’t they Muslims who want to take over the world?” (Debatable.) “Won’t they try to blow us up?” (Astronomically unlikely.)

Here’s what I told our church, “Saudi students are coming here. One day soon you’ll round an end cap at Walmart and see a covered Muslim woman in the aisle ahead of you. Your eyes will get big. You’ll want to run. Don’t panic. She’s not going to blow up the Walmart. She’s probably just trying to buy diapers for her baby. Maybe she could use your help choosing among options she’s never seen before.”

This is true: In America we’re in very little danger from Muslims. Almost every Muslim here, including, most likely, every single one you personally cross paths with, is simply trying to make the best of life. No global domination aspirations. No devious plan to make us live under sharia law. Just a hope, sometimes dim, that their family will prosper and their kids do ok.

As a followers of Jesus then, we’re good to go. We can say “hi,” “welcome,” “do you need help?” Sometimes they’ll be nice. (Like a family was to me today.) Sometimes they’ll be dopes. (Like a guy was to me today.) Either way, can I invite you to trade fear for adventure. . .and maybe love? Give it a try.


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