CONGRATS to Contest Winners!

26 12 2016

Congratulations to the winners of the Giveaway Contest:

  • Anita Estes
  • Drew Campbell
  • Lisa Lickel

Your free copy of A VIOLENT LIGHT will be in the mail soon!

Merry Christmas!

 





Christmas in the Bible and the Al Qur’an

19 12 2016
Govert Flinck – Angels announcing Christ’s birth to the shepherds (1639)

Govert Flinck – Angels announcing Christ’s birth to the shepherds (1639)

“Why do you think God announced the birth of Al Masih (the Messiah) to shepherds?” I asked my Muslim friend.

We had been talking about the Christmas story, and how the Al-Qur’an and the Bible emphasize different aspects of the story, but the Bible definitely includes a lot more detail.

Already mentioned were the similarities between the two accounts—of God visiting the virgin Mary to announce to her the miracle He was about to do by giving her a special son. The Bible tells how God chooses the boy’s name to be “Jesus,” literally, “God saves,” and that he will be called “Son of God” and rule over an everlasting kingdom. (Luke 1:26-38) Later God adds to the shepherds that Jesus is the “Savior…Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:1-20) The Al Qur’an contributes that Jesus is a “mercy” from God, His Word and Spirit. (Surah Al-Maryam 19:16-21; Surah Al-Nisa 4:171)

The chapter of the Al-Qur’an named after Jesus’ mother Mary (Surah Al-Maryam) focuses in on the story of how Mary’s neighbors reacted wrongly to this immaculate conception, causing Mary to take refuge from them outside the village, but how God took care of her there.

The Bible accounts of Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke use a panoramic view to include several other characters in the story, such as the sky being filled with singing angels announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, and the star leading wise men from the east to bring their gifts in worship to a new “king.”

So I asked my friend, why not announce Jesus’ birth to the governor or the king? Why not to the religious leaders? Why shepherds?

“Rich people often use their wealth for evil,” he replied. “Maybe the shepherds had pure hearts.”

“That’s so true,” I agreed. “And I think God wants us to know that He sees all of us. He sees the everyday people, like the shepherds, and He wants to include them in what He’s doing.”

“I have some goats,” my friend boasted. “I’m a shepherd too, you know.”

I smiled at him. Yes, I did know. And I knew that he lived a self-sacrificing life trying to raise four children after the untimely death of his wife, but he had never resorted to wrong ways of obtaining money. He’d worked hard, treated people well, and trusted God. He had a pure heart. And I knew God saw this, and loved him.

“How about this one?” I continued. “Why did God announce the Messiah’s birth to foreign wise men? Were there no wise men in Israel?”

My friend had no answer for this. So I shared my idea: “I think God wanted us to know that this Messiah’s birth was not just for the people of one country, but for everyone around the world.” And for me living in Indonesia, I wanted to add, “I’m a foreigner too, you know.”

No other birth in history has been marked with so many signs—a special star, a heavenly choir, a virgin-birth miracle, so many people receiving dreams and visitations, numerous prophecies fulfilled… No other baby has been given such illustrious names to live up to—Savior, Son of God, eternal King, God’s Word and Spirit, God’s mercy to mankind… Truly this is a birthday worthy of being remembered by Christians, Muslims, and anyone who respects what Jesus brought to this earth.

But for my friend and me, this Christmas we’re challenged to remember that God cares enough about us to include us in what He’s doing—even if we’re only lowly goatherds or foreigners—perhaps He’s just looking for someone with an open heart.

Merry Christmas!





Muslims Crack Me Up

5 12 2016
from historiccity.com

from historiccity.com

Recently I wrote about how Muslim Americans may be more afraid of you than you are of them! (See my post 1001 More Ways to Die in America.) With all the prejudice Muslims face, sometimes even the threat of personal violence, how can they best respond?

If American Muslims chose to hide, or to be offended and angry, I think it would be totally understandable. But even though the stereotype of Muslims is that they’re overly serious, many of them choose to face difficulty with a wonderful sense of humor. In fact, there are some terrific Muslim-American comedians I’d like to introduce you to.

On December 1st Arab-American comedian Mo Amer was seated on a plane to Scotland next to none other than Eric Trump. He was thrilled. “Sometimes God just sends you the material,” he tweeted.

Being a Muslim-American is tough these days, whether you’re trying to get through TSA at the airport or just trying to fit in at your job or in your neighborhood. For Mo Amer, it’s learning how to get along with the gun-carrying cowboys of Texas.

He tells about growing up in Houston and being put in ESL class where he learned Spanish—which came in handy. When kids picked on him for being a Muslim or an Arab, he pretended he was a Mexican instead. But it hasn’t helped his 20-year quest to receive his citizenship. He’s pretty sure his first name being “Mohammed” has something to do with the delays. But what can he do except laugh? Catch his comedy here.

American comedian Ahmed Ahmed feels like racism and religious conflicts “are not going away,” but that laughter is one common meeting point for us all. Once Ahmed took 10 American comedians on a comedy tour of the Middle East called “Just Like Us.” The resulting documentary earned him an invitation to the White House. Explore his comedy here.

Maysoon Zayid, perhaps the first Muslim woman standup comedian in America, co-founded the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival in 2003, with the goal of changing the negative image of Arab-Americans in media. She also speaks out for the handicapped. Maysoon has cerebral palsy. But she says that’s only one of her many problems: “I’m Palestinian, Muslim, female, disabled…and I live in New Jersey.” “The world is broken,” Maysoon admits, “but I believe we can fix it.” Check out her comedy here.

“People say stupid things to me all the time,” says American comedian Azhar Usman, a large Arab-looking man with a full beard. He tells about waiting at a stop light when a car full of young white men pulls up and they start taunting him. “What’s up, Osama!” the driver yells. Before he can respond, another guy calls out, “Yeah, what’s going on, Gandhi!”

Azhar was confused—how could he be Osama and Gandhi at the same time? “What is this—terror through non-violence? I will kill you—by not eating?”

But in spite of the racism and xenophobia Azhar experiences, he chooses to see hope. “We are actually witnessing this country undergo a transformation in front of our eyes, it’s amazing,” he claims. If you want to know why, try his comedy here.

When these comedians share their true horror stories but choose to laugh, the audience is drawn into a new empathy for what Muslim-Americans have to go through. Their human qualities shine through, and the audience realizes that though we face different types of difficulties in life than Muslim-Americans do, as Ahmed Ahmed says, they’re “just like us.”

DISCLAIMER: This is not an endorsement of any comedian’s opinions or their use of coarse language. This is simply a recognition of their efforts to build bridges through laughter.