Tag Archive: islam


Hold on a moment…are we still living in the middle ages where people actually were put to death because of their religious convictions? Is this still the first century where Roman Emperors like Nero would take bundles of Christian people and light them on fire to illuminate the streets at night?

No, the last time I checked the calendar we were living in the 21st century, 60 years after the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 of this declaration states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Why then has Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Islamic convert to Christianity living within Iran, been sentenced to death THIS VERY WEEK by Iranian courts?

Nadarkhani is a 34 year old married man and the father of two young boys. He attracted legal attention when he opposed having the Qu’ran taught to his boys in school and instead requested Christian teaching in its place. Three separate days THIS WEEK he was offered to have all charges dropped if he would renounce his faith in God before an Iranian council; he has declined and they have said that he must die for his infidelity to Islam. Lawyers are attempting to stall his execution but it could take place at any time.

Even more disturbing for me is why people do not seem to care about this. I only discovered this because I have a google alert set to scan the news media for occurrences of “Sharia Law”. When I investigated further I found that the only new agencies in Canada reporting this story were the National Post (on their blog, not their print publication), Canada Free Press, and the Gospel Herald. What about more mainline and prominent national broadcasters like CBC and CTV?

Am I missing something here?

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has issued a statement that rebukes Iran for this action. But that seems to be the extent of the public outcry.

Please, spread the word and certainly pray that this young family does not have to endure this tragedy. Pray for Christians in Iran…the expressions of faith that we take for granted in Canada are not available to many in other countries all over the world.

Stay tuned for more details…

As I promised, here is part two. If you missed part one you can locate on my blog site.

Lets begin with a fairly easy question: do Christian groups still require women on their monthly period to be ‘unclean’ for a period of seven days as was once required by Jewish law and recorded in Leviticus 15:19? Easy answer: NO. Why is this?

Although we are not bound by the sacrificial system found in the Old Testament as a method of dealing with our sinfulness this does not render the Old Testament irrelevant to Christians; it is an error to reject the Old Testament completely. Regulations similar to what is found in Leviticus 15:19 were just as much about teaching Israel about person hygiene as they were a theological ideal. Instructions regarding rashes, discharges and other aspects of personal health were discussed in the Mosaic Law for the safety of Israel and as a demonstration to the other nations that Israel was distinctly different in their actions as a result of their covenant with God Almighty. Remember, the whole mission of Israel was that through their blessings and unique way of life all the world would find salvation.

Our culture has changed significantly since the time of Israel; we have a more fixed society (as opposed to a nomadic and travelling society) that has many social structures in place that help us to maintain our personal health and hygiene. We also understand many aspects of our own bodies in new and more complete ways; this allows us to react differently to changes in our body. Therefore, we understand the specific details of passages like Leviticus 15:19 to be culturally and contextually bound and certainly not fixed ritual law that must be carried forth today in order to appease God. Nevertheless, the principle of taking good care of the body God has given us remains.

I wonder if Muslim thinkers would be open to this sort of interpretation of such aspects of Sharia Law and/or the Qur’an?

I do not have so much of a problem with the ritual prayer that is taking place in the Toronto school as I do with the implicit gender segregation and inequality that accompanies this. Our society has an understanding of gender equality similar to the Apostle Paul when he says in Galatians 3:28, “[t]here is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. Nevertheless it seems that Muslims and sometimes Christians too hold onto contextually bound passages as if they are central to the message of God.

Why must such passages be interpreted as God ordained and essential to our faith? I affirm 1 Timothy 3:16 in that all Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, correcting and so on; however, I think we need to dig a little deeper than surface before we hang out hats on a particular passage of Scripture and making it essential to our faith. If Paul really meant in 1 Corinthians 14:34 that women were never to speak in church and always had to be silent, why then would he also to the same church and in the same letter instruct women to wear a head covering when they prophecy (1 Corinthians 11)? Now we have a conundrum: should women always be silent in church or are they permitted to prophecy? Much of our understanding of gender and faith is subject to this same conundrum.

This is by no means a complete theology of gender; rather, it only scratches the surface and raises the questions in our mind that need to be answered. We can question the practice of segregating menstruating girls in a Muslim prayer gathering but we must also question our own Christian practices of segregation and inequality. This may prove to be far more difficult of a question.

Here’s to the continuing conversation! I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

This will be somewhat of a different post as I relate to you some thoughts going through my mind that are not about exclusively about youth ministry or popular media; however, I am sure that many of you will find this discussion interesting.

First of all, let me unpack what the somewhat provocative title says. Sharia (literally meaning the ‘way’ or the ‘path’) is a code of conduct or religious law that provides Muslims with practical guidelines for behavior in a variety of circumstances. Much of Sharia Law is derived from the teachings of the Qur’an and also from the example set by the Prophet Muhammad. In a Christian sense we can understand Sharia Law as if it were a merger of Christian religious tradition though he years and Scriptural principles into one single document. Sharia Law covers a variety of aspects of life including religious practices but also matters of finances and so on.

The school where this law is in effect is Valley Park Middle School located within the city of Toronto. This school allegedly has a significant proportion of Muslim students (to be expected in the world’s most diverse city) and thus the school accommodates a required 30-minute prayer time for Muslim students each afternoon between the months of November and March.

Here is the aspect of Sharia Law that is causing question: at these prayer times the boys must sit in the front, the girls must sit behind them, and ‘unclean’ girls (those who are menstruating) must sit at the very back and are not permitted to participate in compliance with Sharia Law. The photo included with this post demonstrates just this and is attributed to John Goddard of the Toronto Star.  The question emerges then, is this somewhat archaic expression of segregation legal within Canada today? Is this example of segregation proper for our Public School System?

One blogger is outraged by this imposition of Sharia Law and states that while this has been going on each Friday in Canada’s largest city, “…over 150 Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan to…fight for the rights and dignity of young Muslim women like these”.

So what do we do about this? Is it just the segregation that should cause question or is the whole thing troubling? What about human equality and gender rights within our culture? Should religious groups be permitted to breech certain societal regulations for the sake of their traditions?

We have to remember that our Christian Old Testament states that women on their monthly period will be impure for seven days and anything that touches them will remain unclean until evening (Leviticus 15:19). We obviously do not adhere to this way of living as the early Jewish folks did; is there something here we can help Muslims to better understand?

Stay tuned for part two scheduled for release tomorrow afternoon as I continue to wrestle through some of this and let you know what I have found. In the meantime, leave a comment to let me know what you think.

The full news article on this event can be found here.

Lets take a poll….

If I asked you how many Canadians would say that they believe in a God that is different than we are and has the ability to  control things that we cannot, how many do you think would indicate that they do? In 2003 a Harris poll of American adults and found that 90% of them believe in God. However, simply believing in God is not the point of the message of Jesus Christ.

If the question from the Harris poll was changed to ask how many American adults believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…the God of the Old Testament of the Scriptures, the same God we call Jesus Christ in the New Testament…I think that number would likely drop considerably.

You see, simply believing in God is not the same as putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Acknowledging that Christ’s death (which we celebrated last Friday) and resurrection (which we celebrated last Sunday) are the very things that guarantee that Jesus Christ truly can save us from the destructive choices and patterns of life that we see on earth today. Jesus can provide a life beyond all that we can see because he has power over death.

So, simply believing in God, belief in someone or something out there, is just not the point because that does not bring someone into a faith relationship with Jesus Christ.

James 2:19

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

It makes you wonder sometimes about the difference between faith in Jesus Christ and all the other gods and faith systems that surround us. Undoubtedly you are going to come up against people who feel that there is no difference between faith groups so long as you are sincere…after all there are some common practices that everyone adheres to, right?

Yes, there are some common practices and we are going to take a look at them. But is there something deeper that distinguishes faith in Christ? We’ll take a look at that too.

The Qu’ran says:

“Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah is aware of all things” (Koran 33:40)

The Bible says:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

Muhammad is proclaimed to be the messenger of Allah; Allah is aware of what Mohammed is up to.

Jesus is also proclaimed to be the messenger of God; but Jesus is also a part of the living essence of God (the trinity is a whole other blog post!). God sent himself (Jesus) to interact with us personally as people.

The Qu’ran says:

“The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled…a duty imposed by Allah.” (Koran 9:60)

The Bible says:

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4)

Both Islam and Christianity require that their adherents give to a common collection so that it can be distributed to those who need it. Both are concerned with the common good of the people around them.

The Qu’ran says:

“…pilgrimage to [Mecca] is a duty unto Allah for mankind, for him who can find a way thither.” (Koran 3:97)

The Bible says:

“…[lets] not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

Islam asks its followers to gather together in Mecca for worship at least once in their life. Christians ask that we gather together in church and follow a process of discipleship together as we learn and experience Christ together.

There are certainly some things that we all do the same. Does that mean that we all accomplish the same goal so long as we believe in a God somewhere? Not really….

When the Apostle Paul was travelling throughout the world and preaching the message of Jesus Christ he came to Athens (yes, in Greece) and noticed that the people were very religious (they believe in God…). If that was the whole point he would have just left them alone there.

However, Paul did not. Instead, he stood up and said this:

Acts 17:22-2People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

Paul preached the message of Jesus Christ to them. Believing in a god is not the point…having a faith relationship with Jesus Christ IS the point.

Keeping that in mind, we should not get too excited that 90% of American adults believe in God. We should not get too excited if even 50% of our school would acknowledge belief in God and we should not get that excited that 100% of students present at Emergency Ministries raised their hands confessing belief in God (and 100% of you did…).

What is more important than simply believing in God is having a faith relationship with Jesus Christ. The different between this faith relationship and all other spiritual pursuits in our culture comes down to motivation:

We do not follow Jesus Christ because good things (law) is what he requires.

We do not follow Jesus Christ because our family or our country requires it (or even endorses it!)

We do not follow Jesus Christ just because we like the people who do or because Christian always have the best food.

Our motivation is this: we feel a deep sense and longing to love God and to love our neighbor. This sums up the basic message of faith in God. This is an internal motivation that will be demonstrated in the way that we live our lives. Sooner or later the fruit of our life (what is on the inside) will be shown on the outside in the way that we live.

Simply believing in God does not affect this fruit; having a faith relationship with Jesus Christ does!

Luke 10:27

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

Great night last night at Emergency Ministries! I felt like some of you really ‘got it’ last night when I was talking about the unique message of Jesus Christ. Let me reiterate what I meant to say.

To start with, I need you to give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down for each of the people in the following pictures…based on whatever criteria comes to mind (smart, ugly, pretty, old, young….good, bad…).

Have you noticed a trend here? You gave thumbs up to people who you thought had done enough great things to deserve that. You gave a thumbs down to those people who you thought had not done enough good things or perhaps have done too many wrong things. This is logical human nature…is it not? We have to earn our own keep; we get repaid good things for the good we do and evil things for the evil we do.

Our culture has given a trendy name for this: it is called karma. In actual fact, this notion of karma has nothing to do with the message of Jesus Christ and is actually opposed to what Christ came to declare. Somehow our worldview has shifted…

This notion of karma comes to us from the Hindu faith, which says that we will be repaid for our life’s actions in equal measure; good for good and bad for bad. The Hindu faith also says that after this life we will be reincarnated into a new form that will depend on our actions in the previous life. This is interesting because we were created in the image of God and so what higher form could one be reincarnated into than humanity? Could we become God himself? No…scripture says that there is only one God and we will never become that.

A few other faith groups have impacted our worldview instilling this “I must be good enough” notion. Within Islam there are five pillars that devout believers must fulfill to earn the favor of Allah.

1.     Recite a profession of faith many, many times.

2.     Do the salat prayer five times each day while facing Mecca.

3.     Donate to charity.

4.     Fast during the month of Ramadan.

5.     Make one pilgrimage to Mecca.

No matter what your life’s circumstance, you MUST carry out these five pillars or else be subject to the potential wrath of Allah.

Even more interesting is the Buddhist faith. The basic tenants of this faith are these: life is suffering and suffering comes from desire for things. There is a way to make suffering end by eliminating all desire. Buddhists must always strive to have the right beliefs, say the right things, have the right motives, avoid the wrong things, make the right kind of effort, think about yourself the right way, spend time doing the right things…and you HAVE to do ALL of this ALL BY YOURSELF!

Basically being Buddhist is like being a Vulcan on Start Trek; eliminate every unique and personal shred of who you are to achieve perfect peace.

All of these faith groups appeal to our rational senses of earning our keep and getting nothing that we do not deserve. Essentially we are on this rat race of trying to hold our lives together. We have work, school, family, appearances, desires, likes, dislikes, arguments with friends and people…and at the end of the day we need to emerge unscathed and a complete person that has it all together. At the end of this we wonder why so many teenagers are silently dying inside with feelings of being alone, misunderstood be parents, feeling not good enough, easing the pain with alcohol, drugs, cutting…and some with suicide.

It’s real tough to do everything the right way all the time…right?

Let me tell you about something that just does not make logical sense but should blow your mind.

Jesus Christ says that his ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8)

Jesus Christ says that he looks on the heart.  (1 Sam 16:7)

Jesus Christ says that we’re never going to have it all together on our own…that’s normal. (Romans 3:23)

Unlike every other belief and faith system on this earth, Jesus Christ gets you and me. This is probably because Christ is the one that created us. The way out of this rat race of always trying to do things well enough on our own is to give direction and leadership of your life to Jesus Christ. This is more than just agreeing to a new set of beliefs; there is a spiritual change that takes place in the world when one person gives direction of their lives to Jesus Christ.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9)

We do not have to do everything on our own; the Spirit of God comes to live inside the spiritual part of our bodies and helps us with change. Instead of condemning us when we fall short (as is the case in the other faiths discussed here) the Spirit of God reaches out with compassion and says, “Lets do better next time”.

This is all much more refreshing than having to do everything good on our own all of the time.

So you see, being ‘good’ or ‘good enough’ has nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead it’s about being different. It’s about building something great using the blocks that you have been given. It’s about having spiritual direction from the one that knit this whole world together. It’s about falling off the path and then getting back up and carrying on further than before. It’s about going on a journey together to somewhere new instead of just spinning our wheels stuck in the same place or going around in a circle and always coming back to the same spot.

In Jesus this becomes reality.