High Stakes in the Case of Nabeel Qureshi

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Nabeel Qureshi is a 34-year-old medical doctor, seminary student, author, and a former devout Muslim who converted to Christianity and who became a powerful apologist for the faith, especially in the Muslim community. A year ago he received the devastating diagnosis of stage IV gastric cancer with a potential cure rate of less than 4%. He underwent the best possible medical treatment to set him up for a potential curative surgery, however he just learned that his treatment failed and there will be no surgical attempt to resect the cancer. From a modern medical standpoint his chance to beat this monster is 0%.

What makes this case unique? What makes his terminal diagnosis a high stakes affair?

Besides potentially leaving behind a young family, the highest stakes in Nabeel’s case have to do with the gospel and with the fame of our LORD among the nations.  It is no secret that Nabeel’s family and Muslim community he grew up in were unhappy with his infidelity to Islam. He writes about it in his books. But now they will use this terminal diagnosis to claim that Allah is punishing Nabeel for turning his back on his former faith. They will use this as a deterrent for other potential Muslims who hear the gospel and wish to come to Christ. Nabeel has been evangelizing the Muslim community in his activity with the Ravi Zacharias Ministry, has participated in debates in front of Muslims (which he won decisively), and has been reaching out to them in his books.

Just imagine the implications of him passing from this illness in terms of the reproach cast on the Christian faith, on Christ and on the Church by his Muslim critics. Now imagine the implications of a miraculous healing from gastric cancer in a Christian convert among the same Muslim critics. It would be a tremendous boost to the gospel and a testimony for the glory of God. That is why we must all unite in prayer for his healing. God will receive glory either way, but the gospel of the New Testament is a gospel that is accompanied by miracles so that unbelievers may see and believe.

There is another secondary spiritual issue going on here, and it is among our Christians. Nabeel has not hidden his charismatic beliefs in that he correctly believes that the supernatural spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14 are still active today to strengthen believers and the cause of the gospel. He has received numerous prophecies that God will heal his illness, despite his medical prognosis being extremely poor. If he succumbs to the illness there will be those who will use this to mock the gifts of knowledge and prophecy, and the biblical practice of prayer and anointing for physical healing. I am not defending extreme and unbiblical charismatic practices (in fact I sanction them), but the biblical practice of spiritual gifts is an important part of the church.

Nabeel is the subject of life-and-death high stakes for the gospel among Muslims, and for the validity of supernatural spiritual gifts among Christians.

His chance of beating the cancer is zero. That is why this is God’s time to make His gospel shine for His fame and His glory. That is why it is critical that believers unite in prayer for his healing.

Watch the heartbreaking video below.


Freedom and the Gospel

I had the privilege of attending the VES Apologetics Conference this weekend at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. One of the most sought-after speakers in the world Ravi Zacharias was there, and he spoke about the direction of Christian apologetics in the 21st century.

Ravi used an amazing example from this personal experience to illustrate the value of freedom. When he visited Guantanamo Bay in Cuba he noticed the irony of ironies. The prison housing terrorists who waged war against American freedom were themselves without freedom as they were surrounded by a triple barbed wire fence. However, on the Cuban side there was another wall topped by barbed wire which was meant to prevent Cubans from coming to freedom.

A place like Guantanamo represents such opposite things for the terrorists imprisoned there and the Cubans who would want to defect to the US to achieve freedom.

The gospel of Jesus Christ bears similarities to the above illustration in terms of the irony it presents. It is the best possible news for the man regenerated by the Holy Spirit, but it is the worst possible news for the natural man who remains under the wrath of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

How is it possible that two such opposite views of the gospel can exist? The one who experiences its salvation sees is as the power of God, while “the wise, the scribe, and the debater of this age” view it as foolishness. To the Children of God, Christ is salvation, while to unbelievers He is a stumbling block.

The answer lies in the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit in convicting and convincing the hearts of men with respect to sin, righteousness and judgement. Only He can open our minds to see the meaning of the cross, this glorious event labeled as foolishness by the world.

Guantanamo will stand as an ironic beacon of freedom and captivity.

The gospel of Jesus Christ stands as the power of God for believers and folly for those who perishing spiritually.

image: RIZM

Music Can Evangelize

I have been known to have “Jesus” music on my iPhone.  That’s how some people at work call it.  I honestly like that label, even though it is probably meant in a slightly negative way.

One of the perks of being an anesthesiologist is the ability to decide if the situation is routine enough to allow playing some music in the operating room. It has been shown that music in the work place can relax the workers, increase concentration, and increase efficiency.

One of the biggest compliments ever paid to me was when a new surgeon arrived in town. I may have been playing Casting Crowns or Crowder during the surgery. After the case he said “I knew there was something different about you.” Himself a Christian, he identified me as a fellow believer based on my playlist.

Today I worked with him again and we were listening to internet radio when the song Amazing Grace by Phil Wickham came on. The other people in the room were not believers.  We were all listening as we were working, and Phil’s lyrics were playing in the background:

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You would lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

The Holy Spirit made me realize that these words are the Gospel being heard by the other 4-5 people in the room.

We were silent as we worked.

Silence, and the words of “Jesus” music filling the room.

France’s Moral Revolution Not Enough to Stop Gay Marriage

The two largest rallies in the history of France occurred this year as folks came out in an attempt to sway the government against approving gay marriage and adoption.  They dubbed it France’s Moral Revolution.  Each rally had over 1 million participants, with one rally estimated at 1.4 million.

Despite the voice of the people, France’s constitutional court approved a pro gay-marriage and adoption bill that has already passed through parliament.  The president is expected to sign it in into law.

2.4 million demonstrators with “1 Father, 1 Mother = That’s Marriage” and “Father, Mother, Children, It’s Natural!” slogans were not enough to sway the progressive French legislature and courts.

This is hardly surprising.

This is proof that what the Bible is telling us is true.

Biblical commands on the issue of life and lifestyle which stood the test of time, are now trampled under the banner of love, acceptance, progress and enlightenment.  Apostle Paul warned us about this degeneration in one of his famous lists in 2 Timothy 3:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money,boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

This is a normal progression of social degeneration.

It will continue until the coming of our Lord, and it tells us that His return is that much closer.

Despite this development, the Church will continue to proclaim the Gospel and biblical truth.

image credit: Angela Fallentine

What to Do When You Are Faced With the Opposite of the Gospel

It was an early Saturday afternoon when we decided to take the kids for a walk and some lunch on beautiful Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach.

As we were walking we heard a strange chant and percussion-type music behind us.  It was  a procession of Krishna worshippers coming through.  In Hinduism and other eastern religions, Krishna is an avatar, or a physical representation of the supreme god Vishnu.

One of the members of this faith came over to me to invite my family to their family friendly temple.  Having studied the Bible and Christian apologetics more intensely in recent years I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to engage in theological discussion and see where these folks come from.

From the very beginning I told her that I worship the One and only Triune God as revealed in the Bible.

This led to a startling revelation.  The woman informed that she too is a Christian (Catholic) and that she worships Krishna and Christ… and that Krishna and Christ really come from the same “root word.” This of course is the opposite of truth.

She went on to explain how their supreme god is incarnated in different avatars, our Savior Jesus Christ being an example, and how they invite everyone to worship their personal avatar collectively with them.  Everything was about positivity and love, blah, blah, blah… Again the opposite of biblical truth.

Whenever a syncretic discussion of this sort ensues, I highly recommend to Christians to focus on one part of the Gospel: the depravity of man.  

I am referring to the fallen state of man, the evil that men do, the suffering and depravity that exists in the human race.  Expose their way of tackling this most central issue and how man can be redeemed.

She said she believes in the purity of the human soul (whatever that means) and that our mind is merely under influence.

Really?  If that is so, if the human soul is that pure, how is it that a Boston Marathon bomber or a Newtown shooter premeditated and carried out such evil acts out of his “pure” heart?  Why can’t one’s purity overcome such “influences?”

Of course she had no coherent answer, because the real answer lies in human hate and disobedience toward the Real God, our Creator. These people are blinded and they are not able to see their fallen nature.  If they stopped for two minutes to analyze the anger, the jealousy, the adultery, the greed that we all harbor in our hearts, they would realize that we are not pure at all.  They would realize we are in dire need of a perfect Savior.

There is no faith or religion on this planet that is able to resolve this depravity of man, other than the faith that claims that the perfect God Himself redeemed us via His Own sacrifice.

The most ironic thing is that the various avatars and incarnations of the gods of their religions suffer from the same shortcomings as humans: sexual desire and sin, jealousy, hate, war, etc. The very beings they worship are not perfect beings.

Be aware that they quickly turn the discussion to extremely abstract terms.  Instead of wrestling with real issues like why murder and adultery exist, they will go off on abstract tangents of dualism influence, mind over matter, meditation for purity, and such.

Instead of wasting precious time in discussing things in complex philosophical terms, be simple, and be direct.

Man was created in the image of God, but man fell due to disobedience and deserves eternal death.  In His Sovereignty and by grace, God made possible the redemption of man only by believing and obeying Christ, the perfect God-Man who redeemed us by His sacrifice.  Believers in Christ are saved from damnation and are made perfect again in the image of God upon their glorification.

That is the simple and direct gospel that non-Christian worshipers must hear.

How much more simple is this “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1) compared to thousands and millions of gods and their stories and abstract explanations?

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On the Day of Silence, Speak the Gospel!

April 19th. Day of Silence.

Today is a day of activism in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community, when students who subscribe to this lifestyle and their allies will refrain from speaking the entire day at school.

It’s an act to show they are being suppressed, discriminated, bullied and hated for what they label as their natural orientation.

How should a Christian handle the silent treatment from your fellow students?

It is important to realize hate is a sin, so we are forbidden from hating, bullying or discriminating against anyone.

The most logical response for a Christian filled with the Holy Spirit is to speak the Gospel.

Tell them that Jesus loves them and that God put a natural law in their heart that convicts them of their life style. The inner struggle they have is precisely a result of this law.

I believe the reason so many GLBT folks are trying so hard to win the approval of the Church for this lifestyle is because deep, deep down they are struggling with the morality of their lifestyle. They are trying to somehow win support from the ultimate moral authority, God, so they appeal their case to the closest surrogates, us, the Christians.

God may use us to respectfully convey some moral conviction for an unnatural alternative lifestyle.

When they call you a bigot, a backwards idiot, and other names, respond in love and in truth. Shine the light on the Word of God as the reason you hold to your beliefs and reject any anti-gay label.

The truth is out there.

The truth is in every man’s heart according Paul in Romans 1.

The suppression of truth must end for salvation to arrive.

The Seeker-Friendly Church and Chreasters

Pastor Ed Young of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, holds a lamb near a cage with a live lion during his Easter Wild sermon on April 8, 2012.

First off, lets define the terms.

“Chreaster” – an urban neologism meant to designate those who attend worship services only on Christmas and Easter.

The seeker-friendly church – a movement that tries to reach out to the unsaved by using unorthodox methods to attract them into the church environment.  These include state of the art audio-video technology, grand stage presence, entertaining shows, and rehearsed concert type worship; very common in larger churches with deep pockets.

The problem with the seeker approach to evangelism is that the Gospel is not always the epicenter of the affair.  The unsaved are targeted using elements from the world to draw them in: a great show, a rock concert, a motivational speech, etc.  The Gospel is then squeezed in hopefully at an opportune moment, but unfortunately, in many seeker environments the Gospel is diluted due to its unpopularity.

A message of repentance becomes one of love, and it is true, God is love, but He is also a consuming fire.  A message that should denounce sin becomes one of acceptance, and so forth.  And exclusivity via Jesus is rarely preached.

Here are some worrisome examples.

Controversial mega-church pastor Ed Young who is the author of the book Sexperiment, is also a trend-setter in the world of fashion and a contributor to pastorfashion.com.  During last year’s Easter show he wore a metro-sexual outfit while showing a live lion and a lamb on the stage of his church.  Needless to say animal rights folks were not happy.

Is that how the Gospel should be preached?

In another shocking example, Bay Area Fellowship, the largest church in Corpus Christi, was giving away flat-screen televisions, skateboards, Fender guitars, furniture and cars a couple of years ago at their Easter service.  Image how many were drawn to that kind of giveaway.  I sincerely hope they heard a message of repentance somewhere in there.

I’m not saying that giving away free stuff is inherently bad.  I’m saying that Chreasters and people from the world are drawn to these churches for the wrong reasons.

Many of us are worried that these churches are not ministering to Chreasters in a Gospel-directed way.  If the church competes with the world and its lights and sounds, the church will always lose.  There is no competition when it comes to performing worldly things… the church makes itself look foolish when it tries to one-up the world by putting on entertainment shows.

Delight in Truth friend and follower Gabi Bogdan said it best on the topic of seeker friendly churches when he said that rock n’ roll is made for the world and Christians are terrible at rock ‘n roll!

There is no sense in using elements from the world to present the Gospel.

Chreasters know the message of the Gospel, but this message may have not yet fully convicted them.

A seeker-friendly approach will not help convict them either, it will just draw them for the wrong reasons.

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Preach the Gospel AND Use Words!

St Francis of Assisi is said to have said something to the effect of “preach the gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words.”

In their zeal for the gospel many have taken to social media to post and tweet this quote to convey the message that your life must preach a gospel without necessarily communicating it verbally.

Such a quote is problematic because this is not what the Bible teaches. It is further problematic because no one can actually prove that Francis said this.

None of the biographies written in the 200 years after his death contain a reference to such a quote. It somehow made it into the folklore, and social media is taking it as fact.

Contrary to his modern image of a gentle soul, Francis was known not only for his finesse but also for his severity in sermons.

Early biographers wrote: “He denounced evil whenever he found it and made no effort to palliate it; from him a life of sin met with outspoken rebuke, not support. His words were neither hollow nor ridiculous, but filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, penetrating the marrow of the heart, so that listeners were turned to great amazement.”

Known as a preacher who sometimes preached as many as five sermons per day, it is unlikely that Francis of Assisi would have said this quote.

Evangelism is absolutely dependent on verbal communication, with nonverbal action playing a supporting role, and definitely not the other way around.

Jesus said in Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” This entails telling, speaking, and preaching the good news.

And one of my favorite verses, Romans 10:14 “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

The world must hear our preaching. Your unsaved friend must hear the good news. Your neighbor must hear you telling them the Gospel.

Let’s alter this quote into “preach the gospel at all times, and it is necessary to use words!”

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The Christmas Truce

It was December 24, 1914.  It has now been months since Europe was engulfed in the deadliest conflict in modern history to date.

Though the Germans had made a strong offensive into France, the French, Belgian, and British forces were able to halt them.  But they were not able to push the Germans out of France and a stalemate developed as both sides dug into the earth creating a large network of trenches.

As I read historical accounts of this stalemate I was shocked by the misery these soldiers were enduring under the fog of war.  Heavy rain water, mixed with blood and dirt in these trenches was as inescapable as the fear of death itself.

But something amazing happened on Christmas Eve 1914.  Under the deep darkness of war created by human depravity and demonic influence, the message of the Gospel broke through in a brief but memorable miracle of modern warfare.

In a well documented event, across many portions of the front lines fighting ceased as British and German soldiers came out of the trenches in the ‘no man’s land,’ congregated, sang carols and even exchanged food items.  This lasted several days to the dismay of upper levels of command.

The Christmas Truce was evidence that the message of the Gospel is embodied in the message of Christmas.  War, conflict, and hate cannot quench it.  It shines through as a beacon of hope.

Even though the world cannot achieve “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” mentioned by Paul in Philippians 4:7, the world longs for it.  Secular as well as pagan preach it without being able to attain it.  This peace is given to those who belong to God, those who have been renewed by the Holy Spirit, and those who have accepted the message of Christmas as truth:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14

A glimmer of hope on Christmas Eve, 1914 was brought on by remembering the birth of Jesus, and it stood out as an example how the message of the Gospel can bring peace into the world.  But unfortunately over 70 million were killed in the two World Wars because the hearts of men were darkened by the evil in them due to their unbelief and rejection of this Gospel.

But as Christians we rejoice because God “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6) and the peace we received is not a just a temporary Christmas Truce, but the evidence of our eternal salvation.

Christ was born! Merry Christmas!

historical accounts: