Friday, May 1, 2015

Allah or God?

Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the Lord God had made.  “Really?” he asked the woman. “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?”  Genesis 3:1

The only theological training Hawa ever received came from what her family, culture, and mullahs passed on which revolved mostly around traditions, rules, and punishment.   
One of Satan’s strategies with mankind is casting confusion about God’s true character. Satan did not introduce another totally different 'god' to Eve but rather mixed deception with the Truth and muddied her understanding by twisting God’s character.  I meet many Muslim women, like Hawa, who have grown up with a convoluted and ambiguous knowledge of God.    

Perhaps you have a precious Muslim friend who talks about God and you wonder if you are talking about the same God or a different God because both of your declarations sound miles apart. She might use the word God rather than Allah, too. You have heard varying views among Christians or read explanations about this subject. However, your question is not just a matter of semantics or a study because you have a Muslim friend and want to know how to proceed when talking about God. You don’t want to blow it and shut down a relationship by going about conversation the wrong way. You want to have an on-going relationship so you can continue sharing more about our wonderful God. You long for her to know God.
Many Christians are convinced that Allah and God are two different Gods. However stating it bluntly that way to a Muslim woman will most likely end in an argument which usually shuts down further opportunities.  One time in Pakistan I shared evangelistically with a lady and said the words:  “My God…and your god…” What an explosive reaction I received which abruptly ended further conversation. “There is only one God,” she argued firmly. What she “heard” was there are multiple gods.  I find it more helpful to start with a mutual belief in one God who is the Creator but beyond that we have different understanding and information of what He is like.   

 “I have bad memories of my father,” Hawa moaned.  “Was he harsh?” I asked her. “Yes,” she replied. I explained that often our understanding of God is formed by how our father is. “Do you think God is angry and always wants to punish you?” I inquired.  “Yes,” she answered. I knew the time had come to speak truth about God’s character but it had to be done extremely simple for her to process.  “Hawa, God is good.  God is kind.  God loves you. God does not want to punish you. God is not angry with you.” We ended our time in prayer which she always welcomes. Again, the attributes of God’s true character were declared as I prayed.  Long before sharing the gospel story a foundation of God’s attributes needs to be declared clearly and repeatedly.  It is more beneficial to shine the light on God’s true character to a Muslim woman than to get into a heated argument about whether God and Allah are the same Deity. When light is shone they will see the differences.   
Dear heavenly Father, help Muslim women to hear and understand what You are really like. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Using the Ten Commandments

Never take what is not yours.  Exodus  20:15  from The Young Reader’s Bible

One of the most frustrating aspects in engaging with my Muslim women friends has been hearing their emphasis on man-made rules and traditions versus understanding God’s laws and principles. Usually the man-made rules have to do with not eating pork, not drinking alcohol, male and female interaction, keeping Ramadan, reciting prescribed prayers, and covering the head and body to as not to reveal hair or bodily form. Manal(pseudonym) is a Muslim woman who adheres to these rules. Other rules are either hazy or deemed less significant.

“Manal, does your apartment building have any rules? Can you tell me what some of those rules are?” She stated the few rules.  “Do you think they are good rules or bad?  Why are they good?” I pressed the point. Then I went further. “Does your ESL school have any rules?  What are they?  Are they good or bad rules?  How about the government here? What are some of their rules? Do you think they are good or bad?  How about rules for driving? What are they? Are they good or bad?  Why?”  I knew this was the area where she made up her own rules or tried to get by without getting caught.  “Do you have any rules for your children?  What are they? Are they good or bad rules?  Why? Did you know that God gave the prophet Musa ten rules for us to obey? Do you know what they are?”  She did not.  I had her read the ten rules in Exodus 20: 1-17 from The Young Reader's Bible story book. We went over each one. I gave an example of each one in everyday life. One example was about the rule:  “Do not steal.”  I described how we might be tempted in a store when we see lipstick and then after looking around and not seeing anyone, put it in our purse.  She became pensive and quiet. It was as if a light was going on inside of her as she processed hearing and understanding God’s rules.    

Sometimes we jump too quickly to the wonderful truth that God forgives our sins through Jesus while they have not always understood what constitutes sin. God’s laws are good. He does not give many laws but what He has given pertains to our relationship with Him and with others. I think that often we are tempted to bypass the whole subject of rules because we are so aware of the huge burden of them living under Islamic law. However, it is helpful to lay a solid foundation of God’s moral laws. They are only a mirror to show us what is right and wrong. They have no power of themselves to make us obey them. They bring a sense of guilt when we break them which results in consequences. Ultimately we want to help our Muslim friends see that we are not made right with God by obeying the rules.  He frees us from the penalty of breaking the laws and offers us forgiveness and introduces us to a new way of pleasing God. But first they need to be informed what God’s rules are.
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for giving us the ten commandments.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.