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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"Fear not, For I am with you."

"Fear not, For I have redeemed you. I have called you by My name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.
When you walk through the fire you shall not be burned
and the flame shall not consume you.
(Isaiah 43: verses 1-2)

My new book, "The Promise: We will meet again," is a living testimony to this incredible promise of God.
Hannah and Rachel are two young Jewish girls growing up in the Warsaw Ghetto during the German occupation. Their lives are turned upside down by the cruelty, hatred and murderous acts of Nazis. The Nazis invade their city, build a wall around it and begin a cruel campaign of starvation, murder and oppression of the Jewish inhabitants. Realizing their only hope for survival is escape, Hannah's family decides to go into hiding. Hannah must now say a tearful goodbye to her best friend Rachel. They meet together at the ruins of a synagogue and make a pledge to each other that if they survive the holocaust, that they will search for each other after the war is over.
The Promise is about the incredible providence of God guiding Hannah and Rachel's lives in the midst of the Nazi extermination of the Jewish race. It is a book of hope and survival and love. In every situation Hannah resists the cruelty and hatred of the Germans by trusting in Hashem(Hebrew word for God) . She does not stand by and watch her people suffer but courageously becomes involved to protect them from the oppression of the Nazis.
This book will take the reader on an nonstop adventure of survival, hiding from the nazis, and enduring the harsh and brutal circumstances of the Auschwitz death camp. Hannah gives us all hope and determination to survive and overcome in the darkest of circumstances, trusting in the promises of God. God has promised to  be with His people in every circumstance and tells us not to fear. Hashem was with Hannah in her every circumstance and kept his promise. There is a very happy ending to my book, "The Promise." The ending will demonstrate that God is with us through our suffering and pain and that he truly does keep his promise.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christianity is a love relationship with God

                "God is Love" (1 John 4:16)
           
              This short little affirmation tucked into the 16th verse of John's first epistle sums ups the nature of God. God is loving, compassionate, merciful and forgiving. The God of the Bible pursues us with his irresistible love. The length, width, height and depth of His love cannot be measured. It is unfathomable! Scriptures declares that, "God demonstrated his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," (Romans 5:8)  God put His love on display two thousand years ago. His love was not mere words or sentimental feelings, but an open display on a wooden cross where He gave his life so that we might live.
                The Bible is filled with pictures of God's irresistible love. The tender care of a shepherd for his sheep. And when he loses one, He searches everywhere until He finds the lost sheep and then rejoices. The picture of a Merciful father who pursues his wayward prodigal son and when he finally finds him, he runs to him and throws his arms of love around him in forgiveness.
                 These are pictures and illustrations wonderfully painted in the teachings of Scripture. Jesus, the master storyteller loved to paint pictures of God's love in his teachings. He was grieved by the heavy burdens of the law put on the Jewish people by the religious scribes and pharisees. They painted the picture of a stern and demanding God expecting his people to live up to an endless list of standards. Instead of putting more religious demands on people, Jesus held out his arms of compassion, inviting sinners to himself, saying, "Come to me, you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
                  Are your resting and trusting in the perfect righteousness of God as a gift or are you trapped on a performance treadmill trying to earn the love and grace of God? On the Day of Judgment God will not ask you how many times that you prayed or fasted. Instead he will ask, what did you do with My Son?
                  Christianity is a love relationship with God. It is based on an invitation to rest in the love and forgiveness of Jesus.Religion or relationship. Which will you choose?
             

Sunday, November 20, 2011

No Compulsion of religion

"There shall be no compulsion of Religion"
(The Quran: Surah 2:256)

Pastor Yousef is on death row in Iran for converting from Islam to Christianity. The remarkable irony of his sentence completely contradicts the teaching of the Quran. The Quran explicity states that "there shall be no compulsion of religion."
How can this be? How can the government of Iran hold to the teachings of the Quran and at the same time sentence a Christian pastor to death, when their own holy book says that religion cannot be forced on anyone?
There is a serious contradiction here.
Pastor Yousef has been in prison for over a year and has suffered both physical and psychological torture. He has endured grueling interrogations and tactics in an attempt to make him recant his faith.
Yet the Quran declares that there is no compulsion of religion.
The government has arrested thousands of protesters since the 2009 bloody election and will not allow them to disagree, speak out or assemble a rally. There is no freedom of conscience, assembly, speech or religion in a country that claims the authority of the Quran.
Yet in the Bible, we are given a choice!  Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, "Behold. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me."
This is clearly an invitation in contrast to the harsh tactics employed by the Iranian government to recant one's faith.
God invites you and me to have a love/relationship with him. We have a choice that is not coerced. We are invited to come freely on our own without being forced against our wills.
Pastor Yousef should be given the same opportunity and not be punished to death for his choice.
I agree with the Quran. "There is no compulsion in Religion." Let's Pray that God opens the eyes of the government leaders to believe their own book.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Will you cast the first stone?"

"Jesus declared, "Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!" (John Chapter 8, verse 7)


Can you imagine for one moment a woman dying under a rain of stones while buried in the ground up to her breasts? What thoughts went through her mind during the last moments of her life? What could possibly justify the application of such a cruel and barbaric form of punishment to a woman?
Iran's Islamic penal code allows for a woman to be stoned if she is found guilty of adultery. Just last year, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year old Iranian woman was sentenced to be stoned until an international outcry prevented the execution from being carried out.
In the Bible, there is a powerful scene where the religious leaders bring to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery.Instead of being zealous to uphold the law of God, they use the woman to try and discredit the ministry of Jesus and expose him as a false prophet.
"Teacher this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?'
The scribes and Pharisees are convinced they have cornered Jesus and he has no way out! If Jesus agrees to stone the adulterous woman, then his reputation of being compassionate and a friend of sinners will be called into question. If, however, Jesus says to spare her, then He is contradicting the Law of Moses and will be exposed as a false prophet. What Does Jesus do?
In what can be best described as an incredible display of compassion and wisdom, Jesus kneels down and writes in the dust with his finger. Then he gazes intently into their eyes with a masterful answer. "Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!"
I can picture the utter shock and conviction on the faces of the religious leaders. They never expected an answer like that. Jesus has pointed his finger at the greater sin in this situation. The hypocrisy of the religious leaders! They weren't  interested in upholding  the law of God but rather using the sin of a woman to further their crusade of lies and deceit. The statement of Jesus silenced their accusations. One by one they dropped their stones and departed.
Was Jesus being soft on the Law of God? Absolutely not! He turns to the woman and asks, "Where are your accusers? Does no one accuse you?" The woman answers meekly, "No Lord." Jesus looks with compassion in her eyes and says, "Neither do I. Go and sin no more."
This story in the Gospel of John beautifully illustrates the mercy and Grace of Jesus. He affirms that she has broken God's law. Yet instead of agreeing to the execution, Jesus covers her sin with His mercy and compassion. This is precisely what Jesus did for us at the cross. He willingly took the wrath of God in our place so that we could be spared and forgiven.
I believe Jesus would utter the same words to the leaders of Iran. He would not tolerate the unjust and cruel punishment and discrimination of women. He would expose their religious hypocrisy. There is only one who is sinless and has the right to cast the first stone and that is of course Jesus.
The next time you and I are tempted to pronounce judgment,  we need to pause and remember the words of Jesus. "Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone."
Like Jesus, our response should be one of mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Of the people, by the people and for the people"

"He will rescue the poor when they cry to him.
 He will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them."
(Psalm 72: verse 12)

"And the government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
These famous words, known as the Gettysburg Address, were proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln during the one of the bloodiest battles of our nation at the time of the Civil War.
This declaration uttered by President Lincoln contains the core principles that establish and govern a true democracy and serve as a model throughout the world of what true government looks like.
I have a friend named Sahar who lives in Tehran, Iran. Her dream is that one day she will live to see a Free Iran that is free from oppression and tyranny and is governed by these principles.
Freedom. My Iranian friends long for true freedom where they are free to assemble, think and speak without fear of imprisonment and torture. Since the 2009 Election in Tehran where there was bloodshed and violence, there have been thousands of arrests, hundreds of deaths and to date there is still over 600 political prisoners still imprisoned. Just recently in the national news, Iran is determinded to execute a Christian Pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani. What is his crime? Converting from Islam to Christianity. In Iran that is known as the sin of apostasy which is punishable by death from hanging.
A well known Woman's rights activist, Bahareh Hedayat, is serving a nine-year sentence in Evin Prison for protesting for equal rights for women. And the list goes on.
The oppressive tactics of the government in Iran seek to put an end to peaceful protests, rallys and assemblies and those who participate are caught and arrested and undergo psychological torture and solitary confinement in prison.
What then is the answer to this government oppression? The first response is to speak out and refuse to be silent and bullied by an oppressive government. The second is prayer. Psalm 72, verse 12 reveals that God indeed hears the cry of the oppressed and will defend their cause. God is there and He is not silent as the late famous Christian Theologian Francis Scaheffer once proclaimed.
A true government is for the people, establishing laws for protecting society and defending them against evildoers. Government is by the people. We have the right to vote and choose our leaders and if they fail to do the job, we can fire them. Government is for the people. True government is a servant for the well being and prosperity of our society.
The famous words of Abraham Lincoln still serve today as a true model of how government should function. My Iranian friends are crying out for this type of government in Iran. They long for what you and me take so much for granted. Democracy!
Lets speak out for freedom and democracy and most importantly, let's pray. If we do these things, My Iranian friend Sahar will one day realize her dream come true for a Free Iran. Lets let our prayers and voices be heard!

Monday, September 19, 2011

"But that is my right!"

Lord, You know the hopes of the helpless.
Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them
You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed
so mere people can no longer terrify them
(Psalm 10: Verse 17)

"But that is my right!"
.How many times have you heard that from someone at a protest rally? Or in a heated debate over a controversial subject? Living in a democracy, we have a first amendment right to free speech, to say what's on our mind and voice our opinion. Our founding fathers took careful measures to guarantee this God-given privilege to speak our mind when they drafted the Constitution. Freedom of speech and voicing our opinion is a privilege that we take for granted. In Iran, this special privilege is almost non-existent.
Bahareh Hedayat, a student and women's rights activist was arrested and sentenced to nine years in Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran for speaking her mind and voicing her opinion. She was a leading member of Iran's pro-democracy movement and was active in the one millions signatures campaign for women's equality. She spent three months in solitary confinement suffering under harsh and grueling conditions in the women's ward at Evin Prison. Bahareh is being punished for disagreeing with Government policy and speaking out against the oppression of women in Iran.
This is the harsh reality of living in a non-democratic society where speaking out has severe consequences. Yet The Lord knows and understands the hope of the helpless. Psalm 10 says, He hears their cries and will comfort them and bring justice to the oppressed. I pray daily for my Iranian friends that they will one day have freedom and the priceless privilege that you and me have, the right to freedom of speech.
On my facebook page is a special petition that I urge you to sign in behalf of Bahareh Hedayat. Bahareh desires to have the freedom one day to disagree with the government and not have to suffer such harsh consequences. Please take a moment to sign the petition and lift your voice in prayer to our Great God that he will speedily bring justice to Bahareh and all Iranians desiring freedom. They want to one day be able to freely say without fear, "But that is my right!" Let's together pray that will soon happen.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hungering for God

Ramadan is a very special and holy month for Muslims all over the world. They will spend from sunrise until sunset in prayer and fasting and reading the Quran. For me as a Christian, a month of prayer and fasting is a tremendous challenge and an example to me. Prayer and fasting requires much discipline. But why do we pray and fast? To grow closer to God? To challenge our sinful habits?
When I think of praying, I have an image in my mind. In our new book, "Tears in a bottle: seeing though their eyes," which I am writing with my Muslim friend Avianne, there is a scene in which Ariel is explaining prayer to her Muslim friend Esther. Ariel describes prayer as sitting on her father's lap and telling Him what is on her heart. She tells Esther prayer is having an intimate relationship with God. You can talk to God from your heart at anytime and at any place and He will listen. Esther is fascinated by Ariel's description. Do we As Christians visualize prayer that way? An intimate time like that with God? Do we believe God looks forward to our praying like a child talking to his father? This might revolutionize our prayer walk!
When I mediate on fasting, I have an image of hungering for God. I remember what Jesus declared. "I am the bread of life. Whoever believes in me shall never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me shall never be thirsty again." (John 6:35)
In fasting, we are hungering for God. We want to draw closer to God and are saying that food will not rule my life and my passions. We shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out of God's mouth!
These images tell us something about God. He longs to hear our prayers and satisfy our hunger and thirst. This month we too should fast and draw closer to God. He will indeed satisfy our hunger and thirst with himself!

Hungering for God

Ramadan is a very special and holy month for Muslims all over the world. They will spend sunrise to sunset in prayer and fasting and reading the Quran. For me as a Christian, a month of prayer and fasting is a tremendous challenge and example to me. Prayer and fasting requires much discipline. But why do we pray and fast? To grow closer to God? To challenge sinful habits?
When I think of praying, I have an image in my mind. In our new book, "Tears in a bottle: seeing through their eyes," that my Muslim friend Avianne and I are writing, There is a scene in which Ariel is explaining prayer to her Muslim friend Esther. Ariel describes prayer as sitting on her Father's lap and telling him what is on her heart. She describes prayer as intimate fellow-shipping and talking to God. Esther is fascinated by this description. Do we as Christian visualize prayer that way? An intimate time like that with God? Do we believe God looks forward to our praying like a Father to his child? This might revolutionize our prayer walk!
When I meditate on fasting, I have an image of hungering for God. I remember what Jesus declared. "I am the bread of life. Whoever believes in me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty again."(John 6:35)
In Fasting we are hungering for God. We want to draw closer to God and are saying no to food ruling our life and our passions. We shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out of God's mouth!
These images tell us something about God! He longs to hear our prayers and He desires to satisfy our hunger with his unfailing love and presence.
We can learn something from our Muslim friends this month. We too should fast and pray. God meets with us in prayer and fasting. He promises to satisfy our hunger and thirst with himself!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Promise: Trusting in the providence of God

"My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish my purpose.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass.
I Have purposed and I will do it."
( Isaiah 46:10, 11)

My new book, "The Promise: We will meet again," is filled with examples of God's sovereign providence and how He weaves together the circumstances in Hannah's and Rachel's life to accomplish His purposes. With the outbreak of World War II and the German invasion of Poland, Hannah and Rachel's lives are rudely interrupted and turned upside down. The Nazi's enclose the city with a huge concrete wall and barbed wire fence and seize control of their lives. Eventually, The Nazis begin calling up the Jews to be transported to nearby labor camps. When their classmates fail to show up for school, Hannah and Rachel are gripped with fear and anxiety. One afternoon after school, Hannah and Rachel retreat to their favorite hideaway in the park by the lake.They sit down together on the park bench facing each other. Hannah tears a picture of them taken together in half. They each promise to keep each others picture until they meet again. With the reality of capture and death looming in their minds, both girls make a solemn vow and promise that if they survive the war, that after its over, they will never give up until they find each other again. Hannah gently holds Rachel's hand and looks her intently in the eyes saying, " I promise you on this day, no matter how long or far away, I'll find you. I"ll search for you." With tears streaming down her face, Rachel looks Hannah in the eyes and vows, "I promise to keep you in my heart. No matter how long or far apart. I'll find you. I'll search for you."
Within an few days after their promise, Both Hannah and Rachel are captured by the Germans and separated. However as the book unfolds, The reader sees the hand of God protecting and sustaining these incredible friends until they meet again after the war.
When life seems completely out of control and senseless, God says, He is in control and directing the events of life. My new book is an example of  how God keeps his promise and directs the events of life amidst the evil and suffering that is taking place. We can take refuge in the promise of God and rest in His unfailing providence. God honored the promise made between two frightened Jewish girls. He can be trusted to do the same for you and me. When the world looks dark and desperate, God shines His perfect light and shows us the way.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

God is in the midst of my suffering

All of us at one time or another have cried out "God where are you? Why is this happening to me?"
In the midst of our trial we are wanting answers.
In my upcoming book, "The Promise: We will meet again," this is the situation that Hannah finds herself in. Hannah has just been arrested by the Nazis. She watched in horror as they executed the Christian family that hid her right before her very eyes! Now she has been taken prisoner and shoved into a railway car full of Jewish people bound for Auschwitz to be exterminated. Inside the cramped railway car, there are Jewish people moaning, crying and praying, unsure of what exactly is happening to them. Inside the stuffy, dirty and hot railway car, a few shafts of light peep through the slits at sunrise. Hannah is terrified and filled with anxiety. Suddenly, she sees a group of people huddled together. She walks over to them and they give her a Bible to read. Hannah has never read a Bible before. Hannah's hands begin to tremble. Ironically she turns the pages to Isaiah Chapter 53. Her eyes gaze upon the words, "He was despised and rejected- a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief."
The words began to speak to Hannah heart. She has heard those words before when she was in hiding with the Christian family. At one time they had read this passage to her.
Hannah continues to read. " But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be made whole. He was whipped so we could be healed."
"Who is this speaking of of?" Hannah ponders to herself, whispering out loud.
The next words grip Hannah's heart. "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter."
For the first time in her turmoil and fear, Hannah feels a sense of peace. She can relate to and understand the graphic descriptions of Isaiah 53. Hannah feels like a lamb being led to the slaughter. She feels despised and rejected . Reading Isaiah 53, Hannah is gripped by the fact that God understands her suffering first hand, because He endured it! Gazing around in the tiny, crowded railway car, after reading Isaiah 53, Hannah recognizes that God is in the midst of their suffering. He was despised and rejected! He was acquainted with Grief. He was busied and beaten!
In the midst of her grief and suffering, Hannah kneels down in prayer and cries out to Yeshua for the first time.
I am very excited to begin writing this book in the Fall. I want my readers to hear, feel and experience the tremendous suffering the Jewish people experienced in the Holocaust. We need to do everything we can to stand up against hatred and intolerance. My new book will demonstrate how love and friendship can truly overcome the greatest of evils.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Promise: We will meet again

During vacation, The idea for my fourth book came to me. The diary of Anne Frank has had a major impact on my thinking and writing. Growing up as a young teenager, I read the diary and watched the movie and was moved to tears and compassion for Anne and her family when they were finally discovered by the Germans and subsequently carted away to the death camps. In my first two books, "Beyond the Veil," and  "Shining Star" Nadia keeps a journal of her key life events very similar to that of Anne Frank.
Because I have been so influenced by the diary of Anne Frank and the horrors of the Holocaust, the idea of writing on this subject flashed upon my mind while I was lying on the beach at the Gulf Shores of Alabama. The story is about two young Jewish girls named Hannah and Rachel. They are the best of friends. The story opens in Krakow, Poland in 1939. They are attending a Jewish wedding and enjoying the festivities when suddenly the German Invasion of Poland begins. Fast forward two years later. Both Hannah and Rachel are at school and notice their classmates are quickly disappearing. One by one, their friends are being called up and ordered to report to the train stations where they are separated and hauled away to the labor and death camps. In desperation and fear, Hannah and Rachel make a solemn vow to each other, a promise, that if they are captured, that after the war they will meet again.
Through a series of circumstances, Hannah is captured by the Germans but manages to escape and is taken in by a Christian family to hide her from the Nazis. Eventually Hannah ends up in Auschwitz, the infamous death camp. Through some friends she learns the whereabouts of Rachel.
 Miraculously, both Hannah and Rachel meet again after the liberation of the camps and have incredible stories to tell each other.
I cannot wait to begin writing this story. The images of the holocaust and the horrible discrimination against the Jewish people has motivated me to compose a story of an enduring friendship against the backdrop of evil and suffering. I am writing this story to remind us to learn from the horrors of History and to demonstrate how love and friendship ultimately conquers the worst of evils. The name of the book will be, "The Promise: We will meet again." I encourage you to go to my profile page and click on the link that will give you the virtual 3d tour of the secret annex, the hiding place of Anne Frank and her family. Amidst the hatred and discrimination by the Nazis, you will discover how love and courage ultimately triumphed over evil. The diary of Anne Frank has sold millions of copies and has been published in several languages all over the world. If you have never read her story, please make this your summer reading. It is my prayer that my upcoming book will also demonstrate that love and friendship overcomes the evils of hatred and discrimination and makes the world a better place to live in.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jesus Friend of Sinners

"What a friend we have in Jesus.
All our sins and griefs to bear."

 All of us are somewhat familiar with this classic, "hymn of the faith" written in 1855 by Joseph Scriven. The very concept of Jesus being the friend of sinners and tax collectors was what enraged the religious leaders, the pharisees and scribes. What was it about Jesus that drew people to listen to him?
Jesus was the master storyteller and he constantly told parables about The love of God. In Luke Chapter 15, Jesus tells a series of parables about God's love and care for sinners. The leaders and so called, "experts" of the law were among those in the crowd listening and waited patiently to accuse him as soon as he was finished. They were not concerned about the lost and wayward people knowing about God's love. They were more interested in trying to find something that Jesus said that was wrong and publicly denounce Him as a false religious leader.
In Luke Chapter 15, Jesus tells the story of the lost sheep, the lost coin and then His most famous and best loved parable about the prodigal son. The story of the prodigal son is very familiar to most of us. A son demands his inheritance now and runs off to spend it on himself. When he finally hits rock bottom, he longs for home but doesn't think his father will ever forgive him. In contrast, Jesus paints a picture of the father running up to his son embracing and kissing him and forgiving him of all of his sins. This enraged the pharisees and the scribes that God would forgive and love a son who did this to his father.
In The Quran, Surah 3:140, it reads, "Allah loveth not those who do wrong." This was precisely the attitude of the pharisees and the scribes. They had a view that God did not love sinners. Yet Jesus went out of his way to describe God as just the opposite. God loves the sinner, forgives the wayward child and heals the broken hearted. Jesus was not implying God condoned the sin. He painted a picture of God running to his prodigal son with his arms open wide and anxious to forgive and cleanse him. The Bible says in Romans 5:8, " God showed his great love for us by sending Jesus to die for us while we were yet sinners."
All of us wants our consciences clean and the stain of guilt removed when we do wrong. This is precisely the reason why the sinners and tax collectors were drawn to hear Jesus teach. They knew they had broken God's law and realized if they came to Jesus that they would hear about the father's unconditional love for them.
Jesus the master storyteller about God's unconditional love is still speaking to our hearts today. When you read the Bible and listen to what he says, you will then realize why Joseph Scriven wrote his famous Christian hymn. Jesus is indeed the friend of sinners and he invites us. "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

Jesus Friend Of Sinners

"What a Friend we have in Jesus.
All our sins and griefs to bear."

All of us are somewhat familiar with this classic "hymn of the faith, " written in 1855 by Joseph Scriven. The very concept of Jesus being the friend of sinners and tax collectors was what enraged the religious leaders, the pharisee and the scribes. What was it about Jesus that drew sinners to listen to him?
Jesus was the master storyteller and He constantly told parables about God's love. In Luke Chapter 15, Jesus tells a series of parables about God's love and care for sinners . The Leaders and experts of the law are among those in the crowd listening and ready to accuse him as soon as he is finished. They were not concerned about the lost and wayward people knowing about God's love. They were more interested in trying to find something that Jesus said that was wrong and publicly denounce him as a false religious leader.
In Luke Chapter 15, Jesus tells the story of the lost sheep, the lost coin and then His most famous parable about the prodigal son. The story of the prodigal son is very familiar to us. A son demands his inheritance now and spends it all on himself. When he hits rock bottom, he longs for home but doesn't think his father will ever forgive him. However Jesus paints a picture of the Father running up to the son, embracing and kissing him and forgiving him of all of his sins. This enraged the Pharisees and scribes that God would forgive and love a son who did this to his father.
In the Quran, Surah 3:140, it reads, "Allah loveth not those that do wrong." This was precisely the attitude of the pharisees and scribes. They had a view that God did not love sinners.Yet Jesus went out of his way to describe God as just the opposite. God loves the sinner, forgives the wayward child and heals the broken hearted. Jesus was not implying that God condoned the sin. He painted a picture of God running to His prodigal son with his arms wide open and anxious to forgive and cleanse him. The Bible says in Romans 5:8, "God showed His great love for us by sending Jesus to die for us while we were still sinners."
All of us wants our consciences clean and the stain of guilt removed when we do wrong. This is precisely the reason why the sinners and tax collectors were drawn to hear Jesus teach. They knew they had broken God's law and they knew if they came to Jesus that they would hear about the Father's unconditional love for them.
Jesus the master storyteller about God's unconditional love is still speaking to our hearts today. When you read the Bible and listen to what he says, you will then realize why Joseph Scriven wrote his famous Christian hymn. Jesus is indeed the friend of sinners and he invites us. "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Healing Of The Scars

"There are no scars too deep and there is no hatred too strong that the Grace of God cannot heal"

I was at work when I first heard the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. My initial reaction was a thankful heart for the incredible bravery demonstrated by our Military to bring to an end his reign of terror. Then I remembered the attitude expressed by God in Ezekiel 33:11, "As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I taken no pleasure in the death of the wicked. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live."
The heart of God desires that none perish but all come to repentance.
I then turned my thoughts toward my Muslim friends. I turned on my blackberry phone and wrote on facebook, "The Great impostor that caused so much pain for my Muslim friends is finally dead."
Ever since September 11, 2001, Muslims have been labeled terrorists because of this evil man's actions and for the last decade have suffered incredible pain and discrimination. I next wrote, "The healing of the scars has begun."
There is a scene in our upcoming book, "Tears in a Bottle: Seeing through their eyes," where Ariel is standing on a platform at a protest rally and giving a speech defending her Muslim friend Esther. The protesters have gathered to condemn the building of the Muslim Multi-cultural center so close to the site of the world trade center memorial. Distraught and tired of the stereotyping and discrimination against Muslims, Ariel addresses the crowd and urges them to stop falsely accusing Muslims of all being terrorists. She reminds them that true Muslims are peaceful and not violent like the counterfeit ones who brought death and destruction on 911. Ariel then appeals to both Christians and Muslims in the crowd to let go and release their bitterness because, "There are no scars too deep and no hatred too strong that the Grace of God cannot heal."
This is a very pivotal statement in the book that applies perfectly to the current situation. The real terrorist is finally dead and now the healing can begin. There can be real healing and forgiveness between Muslims and Christians through the Grace of God. Picking up on this theme, I wrote a song about the healing of the scars. The interlude of the song declares, "You were scarred with our shame and disgrace. You healed our wounds when you took our place. I never knew your love would go this far. You came for the healing of our scars."
Jesus bore our sin and judgment on the cross to bring the real healing for our scars.
We have an opportunity to be like Ariel and stand up for our Muslim friends by showing them unconditional love and acceptance. When we become true friends with no strings attached and no agendas then there is hope for the healing of the scars.
Why not begin today?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Becoming a shoulder for someone to lean on

Becoming a shoulder for someone to lean on
"Share each others burdens and in this way fulfill the Law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2)

There is a powerful scene in our upcoming book, "Tears in a Bottle: Seeing through their eyes," where Ariel is standing at her husband's graveside still devastated over his death. Esther, Ariel's Muslim friend, quietly steps up next to her and provides her a shoulder to lean on.
Everyone of us at one time or another, no matter what the situation, need a shoulder to lean on. We need someone to listen to our pains and heartaches thus allowing us the opportunity to let go of all of our sorrows. Our upcoming book is about the healing of the scars and the breaking down of the walls of discrimination. In another scene in the book, Esther listens patiently to the heartaches of Amanda, a Christian woman who lost her husband when terrorists slammed a commercial jetliner into the World Trade Center tower. This incredible scene takes place at the World Trade Center Memorial pool just adjacent to where the Islamic Multi-cultural center is being built. Once again, Esther provides a shoulder to lean on and Amanda is able to forgive Muslims and be healed from her bitterness and unforgiveness.
These examples in our book demonstrate a powerful principle: When we take the time to listen from the heart, we are sharing in the burdens of others and  thus Honoring Christ. Most of our lives are so busy that we preoccupied with just pleasing ourselves and forgetting that anyone else around us even exists. Yet there is a powerful blessing in taking the time out of your busy life to listen and encourage those around you who are genuinely hurting. It is the blessing of knowing that you made a real difference in that hurting person's life. You may have not solved the problem, but because you listened and cared, they are encouraged, they can move on and now their life has been changed because you took out the time to be there for them.
Because Esther showed love and compassion to Ariel, Ariel was able to begin the healing process and move on. In Amanda's case, Amanda was confronted with her bitterness and unforgiveness and for the first time in many years, she was able to forgive Muslims and find healing for her scars.
The amazing thing about our book is the unselfishness and compassion of Esther. Esther is the unfortunate target of a lot of hatred and discrimination, including abuse from her own husband Mustafa. Yet Esther is always reaching out in love and compassion and becoming the shoulder for others to lean on. Esther's example should be our mandate.
Are you willing to become that shoulder for someone else to lean on? Take the time out today and listen and when you do, your are demonstrating the character of Christ and becoming a source of healing and hope to the many hurting people around you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The blessed joy of friendship

 "Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, What! You too? I thought I was the only one."  C.S. Lewis


It has been an incredible adventure having Avianne Asyiah Khalil as my co-author to write together the book, "Tears in a Bottle; Seeing through their eyes." Both of us are very excited to be writing the first ever Islamic/Christian fiction historical novel. In the process we have become good friends and as a result our novel is an exciting, dramatic journey that is changing and shaping us as well. One of the most important themes of our novel is the unconditional love friendship between a Muslim and a Christian lady. Esther is a Muslim woman struggling with an abusive husband and Ariel is trying to put back together the pieces of her life after her husband dies in Afghanistan.
Their individual unique circumstances results in a very close bond between them. Esther's visit to central park becomes a life transforming event when she meets Ariel painting at the Bethesda Fountains. What made this such a great friendship? Both of them had a void in their life at that time. Both of them listened to each other from the heart. Most importantly, both of them respected each other. There was no pressure to convert. They accepted each other from the heart. Ariel became the shoulder for Esther to lean on through her abuse. They agreed to disagree respectfully and instead focused their energies on exploring life together.
Amazingly this is much the same situation with Avianne and me. We text each other almost everyday and laugh and cry together. We enjoy our friendship and have a healthy respect for each other's beliefs. The result is a friendship that will last forever. It is truly a humbling and honorable thing to write a book together. The incredible thing is to watch us become like the very characters that we are writing about. 
The point Im trying to make is that friendship is a gift from God. When you pour your life, love and respect into that friendship, it is a treasure that can last forever. C. S. Lewis was not only a great author but also a great friend. He was kind, unselfish and a lot of fun to hang out with. We can learn a lot about life from reading his books. I know I have. I hope you will too.



Friday, March 18, 2011

The dark world of spousal abuse

"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out."
                         (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NLT )
It is truly a pleasure to have Avianne Asyiah Khalil to help me write my new book, "Tears in a bottle: Seeing through their eyes." Avianne brings a lot of knowledge and experience to the book and is very skilled in shaping and molding the character of Esther into an authentic Muslim woman. Being a Muslim woman herself, Avianne is a tremendous help in describing the customs, habits and rituals of what its like to be a Muslim woman. One of the main themes that we address together in this upcoming book is the dark and violent world of spousal abuse. It is far too common of a problem that emotional and physically devastates a woman and makes her feel hopeless and trapped. Esther is treated like a possession and a doormat. She becomes the slave of Mustafa and willingly does so because she has confused love with blind obedience. At one point in the book, after they have moved to New York City, Esther meets a wonderful Christian friend named Ariel one day in Central Park. They become very strong friends and Ariel is able to reach out with love and compassion to bring healing to her darkened world of abuse. However, once Mustafa finds out, He becomes enraged and locks Esther in the closet.
Are you locked and trapped in a closet and feel there's no way out? Are you looking for true love and have instead accepted abuse because of a lack of self-esteem?  I urge you to break free and tell a close friend your story.There are many "Ariels" in the world that want to reach out to you and give you hope and healing. If you have settled for a "love" that ridicules and controls your life, than you have embraced a cheap counterfeit. Jesus wants to give you His unconditional love of forgiveness and healing. When Esther meets Ariel in Central park, she finds a woman of compassion and love that treats her with kindness and gives her the dignity that she was missing. God wants to unlock the door of your closet today and set you free. His love is not a cheap counterfeit of control and abuse. It is an unconditional love that will set you free and bring healing to your scars.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Circle Of Love

"There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." (Jesus)
 (John Chapter 15, verse 13)
 When we love and lay down our lives for our friends we are pleasing and glorifying God in the ultimate way. This is exactly what Jesus did for us. He loved us so much he was willing to give away his life for his friends.
 Recently, there was a beautiful example of this sacrificial love in the streets of Egypt. As protesters and angry crowds collided with each other in outrage over the dictatorship of Mubarak, a group of Egyptian Coptic Christians peacefully displayed a beautiful circle of love. They joined hands with each other and formed a circle of protection around Muslims so they could perform their Friday prayers. This was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Amidst the violence, anger and outrage, a group of Christians were willing to lay down their lives so that their Muslim friends could be protected.
 This is a perfect picture, a beautiful image of what Jesus wants us to do here in America. In my upcoming book, "Tears in a bottle: Seeing through their eyes," Esther travels from Tehran to New York City for a new life of freedom and prosperity. Instead she faces hatred and discrimination during a bitter controversy over the building of a mosque near the site of where the World trade center once stood.
One day while walking in Central Park, Esther meets Ariel, who is busy painting next to the Bethesda fountains. Ariel is a wealthy widow who recently lost her husband in Afghanistan. She is also a Christian who loves life and enjoys being outdoors flying kites and painting. That day, Esther and Ariel become friends and its the beginning of a sacrificial-love relationship. Ariel is there to comfort and protect Esther from an abusive relationship with her husband by providing her with a circle of love and protection.
Like Ariel, are we willing as Christians to stand up for our Muslim friends? Are we willing to stand between them and the angry, hateful people who constantly criticize and ridicule them with the terrorist label?
I am praying that we do exactly like our Egyptian brothers and sisters did in Tahrir Square. They formed a circle of love and protection around their Muslims friends. Will we do the same?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A wise person is one who listens

Proverbs 12:15 instructs us: "Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listens to others."
How many times have you and me been so anxious to say something to someone that we don't hear a word that they are saying to us. I've been guilty of that many times. Or, how many times in a conversation do we nod our head to our friend in agreement but yet we really haven't been listening at all?
Proverbs is instructing us here that if we are wise, we will listen. We need to practice listening. That means we need to take an interest in what others are saying if we are to communicate effectively with each other.
There is a powerful scene in my upcoming book, "Tears in a bottle: Seeing through their eyes," in which Esther finds herself in the midst of a heated demonstration near the world trade center memorial in New York City. Hundreds of people carrying signs and shouting thru megaphones are engaging with Muslims, denouncing the recent plan to build a mosque near the site of where the world trade center once stood. After confronting the hatred and discrimination from the protesters, Esther fights her way past the crowd and finds herself all alone near the memorial. Esther spots a woman standing by herself with her head bowed to her chest and crying. You have to picture this like a movie. The chaotic sounds of the protesters fade in the background and all you see is Esther and this woman together by themselves. This woman's name is Amanda. Amanda is a Christian. She stands all alone mourning the death of her husband who was trapped on the 102nd floor of the WTC on September 11 and killed. Here at the site where the world changed forever on September 11, is a Muslim and a Christian, all alone by themselves and standing together.When Amanda looks up she sees Esther. She recognizes she is a Muslim because she is wearing a hijab.Amanda gives Esther a look of hatred and bitterness. "How dare you come here? Your people murdered my husband!"
Esther allows Amanda to speak her mind and tell her story. After Amanda finishes venting her emotions, Esther explains the heartache in her life and how she lost two close friends in recent tragedies.Suddenly, the hatred and bitterness begins to melt away. Esther and Amanda have found a way to connect with each other. They have listened to each other with their hearts and shared the pain and grief in their lives. Then Esther, in tears, looks at Amanda with compassion and love in her eyes.
"Just a few minutes ago, Amanda, there was hatred and tension here. But now there is hope. Where we are both standing on a quiet Tuesday morning the world changed forever. Since then, there has been hatred, war and discrimination. But now today, Amanda, there is hope instead of hatred and peace instead of violence. The crowd over there is shouting and insulting each other. They won't stop and listen to each other. Yet here we are, a Muslim and a Christian, all alone together. We have shared our stories of pain together and listened to each other from the heart. There is hope and healing for us, Amanda. Right here on the site of one of the world's greatest tragedies, there is healing for the scars, because we stopped and took the time to listen to each other."
  Proverbs 12:15 is absolutely right, "The wise listen."  There is healing for the scars between Muslims and Christians when we stop and listen to each other. I cannot wait to write this book. There is hope for healing and it begins with one person and that person is you and me.

Monday, February 7, 2011

God keeps our tears in a bottle

You keep track of all my sorrow
You have collected all my tears in your bottle
You have recorded each one in your book
               (Psalm 56: verse 8)

It has been a very busy week for me! My new Book, "Shining Star: a light in the darkness of Iran, " has just been released and I am preparing for my book signing on February 19. I have also been back and forth to the post office sending the book out to all my Muslim friends around the world. In the midst of it all, I have also been working on the outline for the new book, "Tears in a bottle: seeing through their eyes." It was then that I noticed that it was time to update my blog. But what to write on? Hmmmmm. Then it dawned on me. What not preview the upcoming book?
.The title of the book, "Tears in a bottle" is drawn from a psalm that David wrote. David poured out his heart to God in both praise and tears. So he knew what he was talking about. David teaches us that our hurts, fears, laments and tears really matter to God. He knows about them and doesn't brush them aside or forget about them. He's not too busy running the universe to take time out and recognize our hurts and pains. This little verse says so much about God. It says God keeps track of our sorrows and is intimately concerned about them. In short, God knows when we hurt and doesn't forget about our pain.
 In the upcoming book, A Shite Muslim woman named Esther uproots her family and leaves Tehran bound for New York to begin a brand new life here in America. What she experiences and see with her own eyes is the cause for many tears. It's open season on Muslims because a group wants to erect a mosque near the site of where the world trade center once stood. Esther thought she was coming to America for a new life of freedom and prosperity and instead she encounters hatred, discrimination and a lot of sorrow and tears.Thus the reason for the subtitle of the book: Seeing through their eyes. In my upcoming book, we will begin to see and experience through the eyes of Esther, what it feels like to be hated, stereotyped and discriminated against. God will collect many tears in a bottle for Esther. Enough said, You'll have to wait until November to find out more. In the meantime, think about what I've just wrote and keep in mind this. God really does care about our hurts and sorrows. He is not a distant, faraway God. He's a God of love and compassion and remembrance.