Thursday, November 16, 2017

Remembering Nabeel Qureshi: Five Presentations by the Former Muslim turned Christian

Nabeel Qureshi giving his last message and prayer request on his deathbed.
Nabeel Qureshi the famed Christian apologist who converted from Islam to Christianity died recently of cancer at the age of 34. Two years older than me. Wow. He was an amazing evangelist, someone I looked up to and deeply respected.  It's sad given the need in the Muslim world for Jesus. 

But I'm certain those impacted by his ministry will continue the efforts to evangelize the Muslim world. Here are five powerful presentations by Dr. Qureshi that I think will touch you deeply.

Additionally the final two videos are of his final message and the funeral service after his death.  The Lord can take us at any moment, always be ready. 

1. Jesus and the Christian Response to Islam

2. Fulfill Your Ministry


3. Georgia Tech Message



4. Jesus in Islam vs. Jesus in Christianity


5. Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward


The Final Message & Prayer Request from Nabeel Qureshi


The Funeral Service for Nabeel Qureshi


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Saturday, November 11, 2017

How to Survive as a Christian in a Post-Christian Post-Truth Culture



The country has changed so much since I was a young boy.  Many like to pretend like it isn't really happening, or that they don't notice the changes.  But I notice these things.  I see them.  And it is a difficult life for a Christian.  We are relatively new believers, in a strange world that seems to have gone insane.  

We gather together, sing songs, listen to the message given to us, and when we are home we read our Bibles and we pray.  We watch things happen in the world around us.  We see people on the streets who live differently than us.  And I remember how I used to be just like them.  I remember how I used to be one of the people out there, doing whatever felt good, and living for nothing but myself.  

Strange things happen in the world, like the Harvey Weinstein affair, and the rash of child sex abuse cases.  And then there's human sex trafficking.  And there is abortion, the killing of unborn children for convenience.  

It doesn't feel as safe as it used to be.  I used to bike around the neighborhood without a problem.  Today it isn't safe.  Today I don't feel like I can trust most people I run into.  There isn't a common ethic, there is moral anarchy.  Relationships are haphazard in such a place.  And if one spends any time at a bar, they might worry that one may drop something in their drink with the intention of taking advantage of them.  

Worse yet, there is a genocide being carried out against Christians in the middle east.  No one seems to care.  President Obama ignored it. The media won't talk about it because it doesn't fit their narrative of imperialist Christian oppression.  But hundreds of thousands are dying.  ISIS is decimating the Christian populations across Iraq especially, and the middle east at large.  But the media won't talk about it, and the corrupt UN won't even acknowledge it's even happening. 

Christians are tormented and murdered, yet regarded as mean and judgmental by people in the west. There is social justice, race baiting, and identity politics.  There are all sorts of mad things around us.  The truth is so hard to discern is a climate of deception.

In the media we see hatred, fake news, and vitriol on all sides.  Ideologies war against each other. Christian values are misused and abused, and most often, simply neglected.

What can we do? We see that Christianity has changed the world before.  We've seen how the gospel has transformed entire societies, and we wonder how things can change in our society.  We wonder if the field is even ripe for the harvesting anymore... 

We hide indoors sometimes.  We hide behind the four walls of our churches.  And we're afraid to speak, at times.  We hear about attacks on religious liberty.  We hear about people being shut down for speaking out on social media.  We're told by the media that there is no threat to religious liberty and if you even think there is a threat, then religious liberty is a code phrase for hatred, bigotry and white supremacy.  If we dare to speak up about religious freedom or identity politics, or political correctness we're slandered as racists, sexists, bigots, and homophobes.  

We dream of great awakenings, of revivals, of movements of young people turning to Jesus in droves.  But we don't see it happening.  What are we to do?  

We'll do what we can, is the answer to that question.  We'll do what the Spirit of God, our high commander instructs us to do in this conflict.  We'll pray hard, and we'll pray often.  We'll throw off the shackles of sin in this world.  And we'll pull the plugs from our arms and legs and torso, of the worldly views and secular thoughts that have invaded our Christian worldview.  And we'll participate in the holy resistance to the kingdom of Satan.  That's what we'll do.  And if we're destined to go down on the sinking ship of western civilization, then we'll go down in the ship preaching the gospel, though few believe.  And if we're destined to rally the people of western humanity to revival, and Christian great awakening, then rally we shall.  We'll obey the Spirit.

But we are in need of rest.  We must rest, regularly. And we ought to realize that we can't do it all ourselves.  We shouldn't try.  The Spirit will do His work.  We dishonor the Spirit if we think we can do ourselves with excessive work.  So rest.  

You know, let me tell you something: We can't help everyone.  We can't save everyone.  And I don't mean that some people are beyond help, though many certainly are.  

My point is this: I can't do everything.  I'll go crazy if I try, and I'll burn out.  So I have to be strategic in how I do my work.  It's OK if I can't reach every person out there in the neighborhood with the gospel.  That's not what I'm here for right now.  I'm here to learn and study, to be a minister.  It's OK to focus on that right now.  But can you understand how I could lose track of that?  I hope you can.  Because I get convicted about everything, and I get burdened about a lot.  That's OK.  But I can't do it all, I'm not God.  I'm just a man.  And that's OK!

Additionally, I need to pick and choose my battles.  This is a hard lesson for me, because I am someone who is outspoken.  I like to speak my mind.  In fact, I believe Jesus calls me to speak up when it matters.  But sometimes I need to shut up and listen, especially at the beginning. Sometimes you have to punt on 4th down.  But there will be times that I speak, and everyone won't like what I say.  But it's not all about people's feelings.  It's about my responsibility to Jesus.  Fundamentally if I do something, it's because I'm trying to do what God has called me to do.  Sometimes that gets me into trouble.  

We have an odd ethic today.  We seem to think being a Christian means never offending anyone, never pointing out sin, and never speaking tough truth.  By the ethics of the culture and the world, we think even talking about something controversial is bad.  We treat even bringing up a difficult topic as sinful.  But it's not sinful.  In fact we're called to deal with sin, to preach the gospel and to be different from the world.  

Jesus offended people.  He did it out of love and a desire to speak the truth.  Jesus was speaking to a crowd, including some pharisees.  
Recorded in Matthew 15:10-14 NIV:"Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”


Am I arguing that we should intentionally offend people? Absolutely not.  What I'm suggesting is that we should speak the truth, the truth of the scriptures, applied to our day and age, and we should speak it in love.  But we should speak it clearly and not shy away from those difficult conversations.  And we shouldn't shy aware from controversial topics.  Because everything important and relevant today is considered controversial.  We can't be silent on controversial topics, otherwise we end up rendering ourselves irrelevant. 

Love is the answer, right?  No. Jesus Christ is the answer.  He came full of love.  Yet He also came full of grace and truth.  He spoke truth and he showed mercy.  Yet he instructed the woman caught in adultery: "I do not condemn you. But go and do not sin again."(John 8:1-11).  If we leave out that second part, we're not speaking a full gospel. 


A full gospel is that we repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15).  Repentance is key.  Time and again in the epistles, the letters of Paul specifically, address first the grace found in Christ, and secondly Paul will speak in the strongest terms for our need to live in holiness.  Holiness is our calling as Christians.  We're saved 100% by Jesus, but our response to God is the most pure and holy life.  

We want so badly to be loving. We want so badly to obey Jesus' teaching about not being judgmental or condemning.  That's certainly an important thing to do.  And yes, love is a central ethic of the Christian worldview.  But the Christian concept of love is quite different from the worldly concept of love. 

Christian love is sacrificial love.  Christian love is a love that speaks difficult truth.  Christian love is selfless.  Christian love is grounded in doctrine and the teachings of Christ.  Christian love is scandalous love, a love that is not mere emotion or words, but deeds and actions. 

So in conclusion, we will fight, we must fight, there's no other choice, we must continue.  

As Winston Churchill said: "We must all hope it will bring a blessing; that after we have averted our gaze for a while from the process of subjugation and liquidation, everyone will breathe more freely; that a load will be taken off our chests; we shall be able to say to ourselves: “Well, that’s out of the way, anyhow. Now let’s get on with our regular daily life.” But are these hopes well founded or are we merely making the best of what we had not the force and virtue to stop? That is the question that the English-speaking peoples in all their lands must ask themselves today. Is this the end, or is there more to come?

There is another question which arises out of this. Can peace, goodwill, and confidence be built upon submission to wrong-doing backed by force?" (The Defense of Freedom and Peace, 16 Oct 1938)


And: "Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
We shall fight on the seas and oceans,
We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our
Island whatever the cost may be,
We shall fight on the beaches,
We shall fight on the landing grounds,
We shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
We shall fight in the hills;
We shall never surrender." (We Shall Fight on the Beaches, 4 June 1940)





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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Colossians Chapter 3: Positions of the Mind & A Lifestyle Response


Video:



The story is told of Sherlock Holmes and his trusted colleague Watson. Holmes and Watson were out camping, sleeping, later that night Holmes woke up Watson. And Holmes asked him,”Watson, look up, what do you see?”

Watson looked up: ”I see stars and stars and more stars.”

And What does that tell you Watson?”

Watson replied:

"Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets."

"Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three."

"Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant."

"Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow."

"What does it tell you, Holmes?"

Holmes replied: "Watson, you idiot. Someone has stolen our tent!"

And in the same way today we want to look up, but we can’t just look up, we have to realize what we need to see: We need to see Jesus and that should inform how we live. Often times we can notice so many things in life, but we fail to see the obvious, just as Watson failed to see that the tent had been stolen.

Today we’re looking at Colossians chapter three, so you can open your Bibles to there. We’ll be specifically addressing verses 1 through 4 and their outworking in connection to verses 5 through 17. And we’ll begin with a word of prayer.

Colossians 3 verses one through four says: "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."

This is the foundation of everything we’re talking about here: Focus your mind and thought process on Christ who is seated above in the heavenly realms. Turn your eyes to Jesus, the rest of the teachings in Colossians 3 rest on these verses.

Next, we recognize that we are dead in Christ. Your dead. And your life is hidden with Christ, where He is now. And finally, focus on the reality that Christ is coming again, and that at His revealing, you will be revealed as you truly are. That’s what we all wait for, and long for, the return of Christ.

Given all of that: Since you are dead, consider all the sinful attitudes and actions of your old self to be dead as well. Put aside: “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” Why do we put these things aside? Because they are the reason that the wrath of God is coming, in the future.

But I think the key issue here is that we think: Can we really do this? It’s so hard to fight temptation. Can we really live a holy life?

The answer is yes: Why? Because don’t forget, we’ve been born again, we are new creations in Christ. I know this, because I’m different than I used to be. I used to live a very evil life. Today I live a good life, not perfectly, but I try to pursue holiness. The reality of Christ is what makes this possible, because we “have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” (Verse 10). So your soul is being transformed into the image of Christ. We don’t have to walk in sinful lusts or evil desires; We’ve been set free.

Paul in Colossians 3 so far has taught us what not to do, so what are we supposed to do? Just as we’ve put off those evil desires, we want to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and [patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other.” (Verse 13).

Paul continues indicating that holy living means forgiving others, because God has forgiven our past sins. So we don’t have the luxury of holding grudges or holding onto sins done against us. We have to forgive them, totally. We see various principles outlined: Compassion, humility, patience and so on. But there is one principle that rises above all the rest: It’s love. Put on love. Love is the culmination of all these principles.

Verse 16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell richly in you.” And verse 17 concludes: “do everything in the name of Jesus.” Study the word of God, and whatever you do, do it for Christ. That’s a real mindset we can have.

So the big take away is to try and remind ourselves as we live, that we are born again, we are new people. The old self is gone, dead. And so as new people, we are to live in holiness, setting aside sin, and putting on righteousness, exemplified in love. Cultivate those attitudes in your mind, and when sinful attitudes boil up in your heart, and they will, counter them with the love that flows to you from the throne of Christ. Turn your eyes to Jesus, and set your mind on things above.




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Monday, November 6, 2017

Evangelism in Chicago: Building Evangelism Focus in the Salvation Army


We’re going to look at three important evangelism ministries in the Chicago area, and we’re going to address how the Salvation Army could integrate these techniques into corps community outreach. I personally interviewed three leaders of meaningful evangelism outreaches in the Chicago area and examined how they reach out to people. The three ministries I examined are Chicago for Jesus, Chicago Child Evangelism Fellowship, and the Greater Chicago Food Depository evangelism outreach. Their techniques include street preaching, community events, public school outreach, training leaders in churches, and evangelism related to food distribution. We’ll look at the effectiveness of these ministries and how the Salvation Army can apply these techniques to enhance our mission effectiveness.

First of all we’ll address the ministry of Chicago for Jesus. Chicago for Jesus is the outreach arm of Metro Praise International located in east central Chicago. They are non-denominational though loosely affiliated with the Assemblies of God movement. They have a calendar full of events and make evangelism the central mission connected to everything they do. They have a calendar of events, with men’s groups, small groups, youth groups, and Saturday night activities. Each activity, no matter what it is, will meet, engage in the group activity, and then go out and do evangelism for an hour. Evangelism is thus intricately connected to every ministry done at the church. With churches across the United States declining and losing attendance, this sort of evangelism approach could prove to be a huge game changer for the Salvation Army. Evangelism is our core mission, to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet needs. This is what we’re called to.

I spoke to the leader of the Chicago for Jesus movement in Chicago, a man named Pastor Rudy Salt. What astonished me about Rudy and his team of evangelists is that each of them are in their twenties. It’s amazing how mass movements often start with small groups of dedicated young people.

Rudy dedicates Saturday nights from 5pm to 8pm specifically for evangelism outreach. I had the chance to participate in this activity. We met Rudy and his group at the church where we prayed, and Rudy led us in a devotional. Then we piled into a van, grabbed boxes of “gospel of John” mini-books called “life books” (available via Lifebook.com) and stacks of gospel tracts and we headed to a busy intersection in Chicago called Wicker Park. We set up a giant banner with John 3:16 printed on it, and Rudy, Abigail, Christian, Jack, and I began asking people if they had a moment to “talk about Jesus.” Most people ignored us or said no. However, in our two and a half hours talking to people we had about twelve extended conversations with people. And two young people listened, understood, and realized their need for Jesus. We prayed with two people, for them to receive Jesus as their savior and we invited them to join a local church in their area. I also personally had the opportunity to pray with a young woman who had been abused, kicked out of her apartment, and mistreated by her boyfriend. We gave her a gospel of John booklet, and prayed with her. It was an extremely moving experience. After we were done I felt for the first time in years that I had finally done what God had been wanting me to do for years. I felt the power of the Holy Spirit on me like I’ve rarely felt before, and it was when I was talking to strangers about Jesus. I’d been wanting to do that for years, but I was too afraid, too lazy, and I didn’t know how to do it exactly. It was an amazing opportunity to minister in this way, and I’ll be seeking to do it again. I hope we as the Salvation Army can learn from Pastor Rudy and his Chicago for Jesus ministry. In fact, there are many street ministries like this, some more or less successful than others. Another I can think of is the ministry of Ray Comfort and Living Waters, who preach the gospel to people on the streets of San Francisco, California.

With people increasingly unwilling to walk into churches, and with more and more people identifying as non-religious, increasingly as the body of Christ, as the army of God, the Salvation Army, we’ll have to go to them, on the streets and tell them about Jesus. In smaller or medium sized towns we’ll have to knock on doors or set up at local events to talk to people about Jesus. This is what we as Christian salvationists are called to do. Evangelism will have to be the cornerstone of future church growth efforts, otherwise our corps will continue to dwindle and die away. 



The second ministry I had the chance to learn about was Chicago Child Evangelism Fellowship. Once again, what an amazing ministry to learn about! The mission of Chicago Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) is to train leaders in churches to minister to children in public schools. CEF helps churches start after school gospel groups at public schools. Any organization is free to start after school groups at public schools, the doors are open to do that, but the local leader for CEF Jonathan King indicated that often pastors are afraid or misunderstand the laws about this. Fortunately though, many pastors have worked with Mr. King and by the grace of God there are over 100 volunteers and about 25 leaders involved with Chicago Child Evangelism Fellowship. They are particularly active in nine public schools in the Chicago area, and Mr. King indicated that 99% of schools love having them.

The mission of CEF is to train leaders in churches. So all a church has to do is contact them and they will come in and host five days of activities and present the chance for churches to start after school groups at local public schools. They provide the training free, they host the event free for the children of the church, and their lawyers and leaders handle the process of plugging in with a local public school. And we aren’t talking about a legal battle, the CEF lawyers simply show the school the established laws regarding after school groups, and the doors always open wide for the church group to participate. “Unfortunately some pastors are too afraid to step outside the walls of their buildings to do this,” commented Jonathan King, sharing some of his frustration regarding difficult with pastors in the past. However, CEF has been highly successful, active in small and large cities across the United States and across the world.

We as the Salvation Army have always been highly active in ministry to children. It seems that CEF and the Salvation Army would be natural friends and allies in the mission of reaching young people for Jesus. In fact, Mr. King indicated that he had worked successfully with a Salvation Army corps officer in the Chicago area for several years, until the officer was moved, and then the relationship died. I would encourage any Salvation Army officer leading a corps to check out Child Evangelism Fellowship on the web and see if there is a chapter active in the city where they are located, and reach out to them. They are looking for opportunities to connect with churches. They will host an event for free in your building, they will train your leaders for free, and they will help you set up an after school club at a public school. It’s an excellent opportunity to reach children for Jesus. 


Finally, we look at the third evangelism ministry I investigated called the Greater Chicago Food Depository evangelism outreach. The leader I spoke to was Ms. Ethel LaBranche. Ethel has been serving the community of Chicago in the area of Roseland and West Pullman since the 1980s. They serve the community evangelistically through the social gospel of providing for the physical needs of people through food, clothing, and toys for children. These social gospel outreaches are of course very familiar to the Salvation Army, so I don’t want to spend too much time on this final topic. Ms. LaBranche indicated that their evangelism is indeed simply showing the community they are loved and cared for through providing mainly food, but also other physical needs like clothing and toiletries. They began as an outreach to the community from their own church, building up a small pantry and a small group of volunteers. Today they work in tandem with the Greater Chicago Food Depository as part of that larger organization. In their region of Chicago they serve approximately 200 people a month with food and other services. The population they serve is mainly middle aged men. They have a volunteer team of about ten members, two of which are retired teachers, and one who works for FEMA. They try to develop good relationships with the people they serve to carry the love of Christ. They make sure they treat people with dignity, respect, and they try to make everyone feel comfortable. This is an area of evangelism that the Salvation Army is very good at. We do a great job serving people through the social gospel of meeting needs without discrimination. Indeed, simply by showing Christian love, people can come to realize that they need Jesus.

In conclusion, there are many important evangelism outreaches in the Chicago area that serve through many unique methods. Evangelism is an absolutely vital aspect of Christian ministry that we should not reject or minimize as a Christian Salvation Army movement. As we increasingly see church numbers dropping and corps losing people, and Sunday school attendance dropping we’ll have to look to emphasize evangelism, going to people where they are to tell them about Jesus, providing tracts, Bibles, and meeting needs of those in the world. If we want the church to succeed in it’s mission of carrying the gospel to all nations and peoples, we’ll have to go and be Jesus in the community.

References

Chicago Child Evangelism Fellowship. (n.d.). Retrieved November 02, 2017, from http://www.cefchicago.org/

Chicago For Jesus. (2017, August 03). Retrieved November 02, 2017, from http://mpichurch.org/chicago-for-jesus/

Chicago's Food Bank. (n.d.). Retrieved November 02, 2017, from https://www.chicagosfoodbank.org/

King, J. (2017, November 24). Interview on Chicago Child Evangelism Fellowship [Telephone interview].

LaBranche, E. (2017, November 2). Interview on Greater Chicago Food Depository [Telephone interview].

Salt, R. (2017, October 28). Chicago for Jesus Interview [Personal interview].

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