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Archive for the ‘Muslims converting to Christ’ Category

In my last post, I reported that Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a pregnant 27-year-old Christian Sudanese mother, is awaiting execution because she has steadfastly refused to deny her faith in Jesus Christ.

But Meriam is not alone in her willingness to remain faithful to Jesus Christ, even if it means being killed. Recently I saw gruesome online videos showing Muslim extremists slaughtering men who had left the Muslim religion to follow Jesus Christ—scenes captured succinctly by Hebrews 11:35b-37a:

But others trusted God and were tortured, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free. They placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life. Some were mocked and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in dungeons. Some died by stoning, and some were sawed in half; others were killed by the sword.” (NLT)

How do we account for the fact that these former Muslims—living in “closed” countries where the Christian Gospel is forbidden and not known—are willing to die for Jesus Christ?

As I reported in a previous post (http://wp.me/p1fMZH-dI), Jesus has been appearing to many of these Muslim men and women in dreams and visions in such undeniable and powerful ways that once they accept him as their Savior, their faith in him becomes unshakeable—for they experience him as real, living, and encouraging amidst the persecution.

Would you and I—we who live in “open” and free societies where the Christian Gospel is preached and followed—deny our allegiance to Jesus in order to save our lives?

It is easy for us to say that we’d never deny our Lord, but until we are faced with the actual threat of death, we really don’t know how we would respond.

While the vast majority of us will never face such extreme situations and life-or-death decisions, are we denying Jesus in other ways?

Are we denying him by hiding our Christian faith at work…at school…from people…or in the way we operate our businesses?

Are we denying him by giving more importance to people and things over him—to our love of money and material things…to building financial security…to seeking popularity and fame…to getting ahead in our careers…to putting our families before him…and to chasing our dreams at all cost?

While our faith in Jesus Christ has not been tested so far by the threat of death as have our Christian brothers and sisters in Muslim societies, many of us take our faith lightly or for granted, and we chip away at that faith in countless, seemingly benign ways through compromises here and there.

Is our faith genuine? Has it taken root in the good soil mentioned in Jesus’ parable of the four soils (Matthew 13:1-23)?

Or is it rooted in the rocky soil that “represents those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But like young plants in such soil, their roots don’t go very deep. At first they get along fine, but they wilt as soon as they have problems or are persecuted because they believe the word.”? (13:20-21)

Or is it in the thorny ground that “represents those who hear and accept the Good News, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares of this life and the lure of wealth, so no crop is produced.”? (13:22)

I pray that none of us will ever be forced to make a life-or-death decision over our allegiance to Jesus Christ. But if we find ourselves in such a position, I pray that we will trust him to sustain and empower us to remain faithful in life and in death.

In the meantime, may we remember our Christian sisters and brothers around the world, some of them at this very moment offering the ultimate gift—their lives—to express their allegiance to Jesus their Lord.

Pray for them daily, especially for Meriam who gave birth to a baby girl in a Khartoum prison hospital wing on May 29.

And thanks to those of you who are among the more than 849,000 who have so far signed the petition to the Sudanese Government to free Meriam.

Grace and peace.

 

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I know the power of a movie showing God’s love to the world.

As an angry, volatile teenage delinquent in 1961, I was brought to my knees in tearful surrender to Jesus Christ as I responded to his love that I saw portrayed in the film, Angel in Ebony, about Samuel Kaboo Morris.

As I describe in my memoir, I sobbed uncontrollably for over an hour after the film, for I felt the heavy weight of my sins pressing down on my being, sensed Christ encouraging me to surrender my sins and guilt to him, and felt his presence and his love enveloping and warming me.

I saw the anger and hatred I felt towards my parents, my willingness to commit murder in my thoughts, the pleasure I got from bullying and intimidating others, my obsession with pornography, and my vow to lose my virginity that year. All these confronted me, and I acknowledged them to Christ and begged his forgiveness.

Slowly the burden lifted, the sobbing subsided, and a sense of peace filled my being, and a great inner lightness and joy lifted me. There was a strange mixture of feeling totally spent and exhausted from my weeping, yet there was a lightness and new vigor that began to surge through my body, and by the time I rose from off my knees, I was a new person in Christ, a forgiven child of God.

There is another film that is having an even greater impact on individuals around the world—JESUS, a two-hour classic movie about the life and ministry of Jesus based on the Gospel of Luke.

Produced by Campus Crusade for Christ as The JESUS Film Project, the 1979 film, JESUS, has been translated into 1,145 languages, shown in over 200 countries in the peoples’ own languages, with the result that more than 200 million men, women, and children have made decisions to follow Jesus Christ.

According to the folks at The JESUS Film Project, every eight seconds another person somewhere in the world makes a decision to follow Christ after watching JESUS. That’s 10,800 people per day!

How is this possible?

Thousands of churches, mission groups, and denominational agencies around the world are using DVDs and video tools to show the movie in churches, homes, towns, villages, tiny communities, or just anywhere Christian workers can find an audience of one or more individuals not yet reached for Christ.

Many requests to show the movie are coming from local Christian leaders in some of the most restricted and hostile nations towards Christianity, many in the 10/40 window—the area located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator populated by predominantly Muslims, Hindus, Budddhists, Animists, Jews, or Atheists.

There are many stories on record at The JESUS Film Project of God changing lives through the movie JESUS, including the following story:

About 250 people had gathered in the small community hall of a mountain village in one of the most dangerous regions in the world for Christians. A Christian team had brought a DVD of JESUS, to show to the villagers.

After the movie was shown, the team was about to invite the crowd to accept Jesus Christ as their savior, when a man sitting on the floor stood up, opened his shirt, and revealed a suicide vest of explosives strapped to his chest.

Panic erupted in the room.

“Wait! Wait! Don’t leave!” the man shouted. “I’m not going to blow myself up! I need to tell you what just happened.”

It took several minutes for the panic to subside, and the man went on to relate how he had heard that Christians were going to show a blasphemous film, so he got approval from his religious leader to attend the showing and detonate the bomb in the audience.

“When the film started,” he continued, “I reached for the detonator and tried to push the button, but as I watched the film, Jesus turned and pointed right at me. He called my name and said loudly, ‘Don’t do that . . . follow me.’

“Over and over I tried. Every time I reached for the button he pointed to me and said, ‘Don’t do that . . . follow me.’ My hand froze every time. I couldn’t move my thumb. I gave up and just stayed to watch.

“Now I believe. I want Jesus to be my Savior. Can you help me know more about him?”

The team leader agreed, and after the man took off his vest and disarmed the explosives, the team not only led the man in accepting Christ as his savior, but they also led the 250 members of the audience in commitment to Christ.

That’s the power of a God-inspired movie—people surrendering to Christ after seeing and hearing the Gospel of Christ in their own languages.

That’s why I’d like to encourage you to help The JESUS Film Project produce more of these DVDS and video tools so that Christian workers around the world can continue to show this movie to millions more people.

Please go to http://jesusfilm.org and explore their website, read more of the amazing stories of how God is transforming lives through the film, and learn about the ministry’s needs and how you can help.

Your help could impact countless numbers of people for eternity.

Grace and peace.

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This week I was reminded vividly of that question from Romans 8:35, for as I logged on to my daily newsgathering site, I came across a video link that chilled me to the core: Tunisian Muslims beheading a Christian convert from Islam.

The video aired on “Egypt Today” and showed a masked Muslim slicing off the head of a young man who had refused to renounce his Christian faith and return to Islam.

The video evoked in me two pertinent questions posed in Romans 8:35:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (New International Version, NIV)

The Apostle Paul answers these questions in verses 37 to 39:

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loves us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries for tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.

“No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (New Living Translation, NLT)

It is this kind of understanding of Christ’s love and assurance that seems to be reflected in the face of this young Christian—an expression of serenity, his lips moving in silent prayer—even as the blade is put to his neck.

This is not the only recent incident of Christians being persecuted for their faith. Just this week, an Iranian court sentenced to death a pastor, Youcef Naadarkhani, for the crime of apostasy—forsaking Islam to become a Christian.

And in Egypt, over 100,000 Coptic Christians have fled the country as a result of growing discrimination, violence, and sometimes, deadly attacks to their homes, churches, and persons.

We are hearing and reading reports of numerous incidents around the world of people being persecuted and killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ, especially when they convert to Christianity in largely Muslim or Hindi regions, or in atheistic countries such as China or North Korea.

A Google search of “persecutions of Christians today” recently turned up 25,900,000 results—articles, reports, statistics of Christians who have been arrested, beaten, imprisoned, and killed for their Christian faith.

Lest we think that religious persecution only happens “in those countries” or “over there,” and could not happen in the U.S., the truth is that there are subtle forms of persecution being carried out in our American society—such as censoring religious expression, discrimination, bullying, hostility, and hatred towards people of various religions, including Christianity.

American society has become so secularized and is in such a moral decline, that expressing one’s views based on biblical principles will increasingly bring a backlash of ridicule, abuse, isolation, or retaliation—whether one is in the field of education, sports, politics, entertainment, business, or other areas of life.

In some cases that backlash will be aimed at hurting the offender financially—in denial of promotion, loss of job, blacklisting in one’s industry or career, or in the boycotting of one’s business.

How willing are we to stand firm in our commitment to Jesus Christ in the face of such hostility and persecution? Are we willing to hold true to our Christian values even if it means that our job, career, business, or livelihood would suffer?

And would we, like the young Tunisian Christian, be willing to die for our Christian faith?

Most of us will never have to literally die for our faith, but if we are faithful to our Lord we will encounter opposition from society. To us, Jesus says:

“God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted too.” (Matthew 5:11-12, NLT)

And the Apostle Peter, writing to the first century Christians who were being tortured and killed by the Romans, encouraged them with these words:

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (I Peter 4: 12-16 NLT)

May we be strengthened and protected in our walk and witness for Jesus Christ, whose name we bear.

And may we always remember to pray for the brothers and sisters in the faith who are being persecuted daily around the world.

Grace, peace, joy, and love to you in the name of our risen Lord.

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Muslims coming to Jesus Christ through dreams and visions

I first heard about it from an Egyptian pastor of a church in Cairo—that Muslims were converting to Christianity after seeing Jesus Christ in dreams and visions.

Then I heard the same thing from other sources—through the mission department of our church, professors at Fuller Theological Seminary, executives at The Outreach Foundation, Christianity Today, The William Carey School of World Mission, books, articles, and over a million reports on the Internet.

This well-documented phenomenon reflects a number of common situations:

• These conversions have been happening for decades.

• They occur in “closed” countries where the Christian Gospel is not known, and where converting to Christianity often results in persecution and death.

• The men and women who have these dreams or visions have never had contact with Christians before the dreams or visions.

• The dreams or visions come to men and women who are earnestly seeking to know and please God.

• The person in the vision—Jesus—wears white or radiates light.

• The dreams happen while they sleep; the visions happen while they are awake.

• After experiencing the dreams and visions, these Muslims go outside of their communities to seek out a Christian or obtain a Bible to learn more about Jesus.

• After deciding to follow Jesus, many of these former Muslims are persecuted, but they experience further dreams and visions of Jesus who encourages them to persevere in their faith in him.

Since 2002, a nonprofit group has interviewed many of these former Muslims who experienced these dreams and visions. Out of the interviews, the group has created a series of docudrama videos—More Than Dreams—that portray the following five people. You may click the links to view their stories on your computer:

Khalil—A radical Egyptian terrorist is changed from a murderous “Saul” to a forgiving “Paul” after Jesus Christ visited him in a soul-penetrating dream. This hater of Christians and Jews set out to discredit the Bible, but is transformed when Jesus appeared to him and changed his heart.

Mohamed—The life of this Fulani herdsman in Nigeria was greatly altered when Jesus appeared to him in several dreams. Though his father tried to kill him after his conversion, Mohamed survived and eventually led his father to faith in Christ.

Dini—An Indonesian teenager, let down by family, friends, and society, became a Christian the night Jesus appeared to her in a vision. Although her family persecuted her because of her new Christian faith, Dini’s experience with Jesus sustained her through difficult times.

Khosrow—A young Iranian man, depressed and without hope or meaning to his life, met Jesus Christ in a vision and surrendered his life to Christ. Persecution followed in Iran and even in Turkey where he and his family had fled. They eventually fled to safety in Austria.

Ali—This Turkish man, in bondage to alcohol and desperate to overcome his addiction, moved to Saudi Arabia where alcohol is forbidden. However, he still found alcohol there and resumed his drinking. Hoping to be freed of his addiction and be led in the way of a true Muslim, he made a pilgrimage to Mecca. To his surprise, he met Jesus Christ in a dream instead and followed him.

Although we in the Western World don’t tend to take dreams seriously and seldom experience God in dreams or visions, we really ought to, for there are many places in the Bible where God appeared to people in dreams and visions, and the words of both the prophet Joel and the apostle Peter, serve to remind us that:

“In the last days,” says God, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17)

God is reaching out to people of all tribes and nations in various ways, but to those who are shut off and forbidden to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God is revealing Jesus Christ to them through dreams and visions.

To those who earnestly seek to know God with all their heart, God promises, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” (Jeremiah 29:13, New Living Translation, 2007, NLT)

And Jesus confirmed this when he promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6, New International Version, NIV) (The term righteousness means “having a right relationship with God and with people.”)

Not only are some Muslims seeking God with their whole heart and finding God through Jesus Christ, but millions of people of various nationalities, races, and religions are searching earnestly to experience God intimately and profoundly. Some of them might be your neighbors, family, and friends—and even you.

God might not choose to reveal himself through a dream or vision, for he has already revealed himself through his Word—the Bible—and through his Holy Spirit, and his living body, the Church.

Just know that if you seek God with your whole heart, you will find him. If you hunger and thirst after a right relationship with him and with people, he promises to satisfy your hunger and thirst.

And as Christians remember and celebrate Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection this Easter week, millions of seekers around the world will find their lives gloriously transformed as they encounter the risen Christ and receive his gift of eternal life.

To old and new brothers and sisters in Christ, rejoice and find encouragement in the following assurance:

“All honor to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is by his boundless mercy that God has given us the privilege of being born again. Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.” (I Peter 1: 3-6, NLT)

Grace, love, and peace to you.

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