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Lesson on Islam and the Occult

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Program Summary and Notes:

Quick Summary: In the discipleship of a new believer in Christ, it is always good to address the occult. Occultic practices should be recognized and left behind as the new believer walks from darkness into light. This is especially true with believers from a Muslim background, because occultic practices are extremely common in the Islamic World.

Occultic Practices in the Muslim World

Folk Islam

Despite the fact that pure Islam is against occultic practices like amulets, spells, reading of coffee grounds, superstitions, and astrology, these are common in most Islamic cultures. Sometimes they are called, “Folk Islam.” But more than just country folk follow these practices. Almost everyone does to some degree. So, sooner or later a Christian working with Muslims, or Muslim background believer themselves, will need to confront these practices.

The Evil Eye

It is curious that the contemporary book Islamic Fatawa Regarding Women, from Darussalam publishers in Saudi Arabia, warns against the evils of using a fortune teller, psychic, or astrologer, amulets, or seeking the dead. Yet it also says,

“A disbeliever like any other may afflict with the evil eye for the evil eye is factual.”

Such a statement would appear to open doors for superstitions and amulets like the evil eye beads – those blue, black, and white beads so common in Muslim lands and Greece – and if we include the “eye of Horus” even Egypt.

The Bible agrees with Islam in warning against people who claim supernatural powers or practices,

“Do not practice divination or seek omens…Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:26,31 (NIV)

Christianity does however recognize the kind of demonic power that the evil eye cult implies. It can be scary. However, even if they seem insignificant, all practices that draw protection or power from a spiritual source other than God, should be rejected by Christians. We fight evil power with spiritual weapons from God. (see below)

Rev. Houssney and Dr. Cynthia Discuss Islam and the Occult

In the video lesson, guest Georges Houssney and Dr. C discuss especially common occultic practices of Muslims and former Muslim Christians. Since the Bible renounces such practices, they comment on ways to recognize and combat them.

The Power of the Words

Verses of the Qur’an can be used as a talisman, or lucky charm, by Muslims. Some roll up verses and wear them in jewelry, or inscribe them on a surface for protection. Most schools of Islamic thought reject using the Qur’an itself as an amulet.

You may see the word Allah in Arabic as a necklace on Muslim women. To our understanding there is controversy if this is acceptable. Most Muslim leaders will allow this, especially in the West; but the strictest will likely also consider it a talisman.

Since the words of the Qur’an in Arabic are felt to have power, we can see how Muslims could be attracted to this sort of talisman. Elsewhere we explain that the very words of the Qur’an are believed to have power when recited in Arabic (see Lesson on The Bible and The Qur’an). Muslims believe they receive points for these, the amount depending on the time of year and excellence of their pronunciation. This helps gain credit for the reciter at the Day of Judgment.

In contrast, with the Bible the power is with the message. As long as it is clearly translated, the message is the same in any language. The Word of God is sharp and powerful (Hebrews 4:12).

Other Occultic Practices in the Muslim World

Tea and coffee are popular drinks with Muslims, perhaps because Islam forbids alcohol. Practices like reading patterns in the tea leaves and coffee grounds left in cups after these drinks are finished, is extremely common, especially with women. Dr. C has experienced the discomfort of having to decline graciously made offers to do this for her.

Because the occult is so pervasive in the Muslim world, it is difficult for former Muslims who are now Christians to recognize and eliminate it from their life style. They may still be reading astrologic forecasts without thinking that it is a habit which must now be discarded.

Curses may sound medieval to Christians, or like something they would encounter mainly working with Satanists. But curses and charms are part of the daily occultic practices of folk Islam. Huda has shared with Dr. C that she has had several curses placed on her by jealous women.

Charms are popular for a variety of causes, like protection, infertility or health. Dr. C has even had to decline a love charm for one of her family members offered by a Christian from Muslim background.

Perhaps related to curses is poisoning. That is definitely be an unlucky charm! 19th century missionary Lilias Trotter described it as a common method Muslims used to punish, even kill, her converts to Christianity. Their team tried protect their new believers from being poisoned by relatives. Others have found the same thing. New believers from Muslim backgrounds and their disciplers should be aware of this possibility. We have also had a case of suspected poisoning of a new convert.

The Qur’an’s Spell

In the video lesson, Huda explains to Dr. Cynthia how the Qur’an is whispered over Muslim babies. She feels it is like a spell that controls the lives of those living under it.

The lesson includes reality video of the call to prayer in Turkey. Being loudly broadcast from mosques across Muslim countries five times a day – from before dawn until bedtime – you can see a sense in which the Qur’an does have a hypnotic and controlling effect among those it touches. Huda expresses regret that the Qur’an was spoken over her from her birth onward until she left the Middle East.

As a child, she was afraid to even touch the Bible a friend gave to her. As an adult, when she started reading the Bible, she found God very clearly speaking. Huda says she feels like she came out of a cage when she left Islam and its spell. This echoes what former Muslim Ayan Hirsi Ali wrote in her book Infidel.

Psychological conditioning is very powerful… They are like prisoners suffering from Stockholm Syndrome…comparable to slaves…who prefer the certainty of their existence in slavery to a freedom that they perceive as treacherous.

In contrast, Dr. C encourages reading the Bible. It is not a hypnotic spell. Its words comfort us. It is a light to our path. As we allow its words to abide in us, we bring forth spiritual fruit.

A Christian’s Weapons against Evil

Helpful advice:

Don’t try to get from anything or anyone what you can only get from God.

Life is difficult. We certainly understand the need for supernatural assistance – sometimes just to make it through the day. But Christians should take our burdens and fears to God, and rely on his supernatural power to assist us.

We cannot force God to do what we want; but we can rely on him to do what is best in our situation. Many times, we see him supernaturally intervene. Other times, he simply gives us power to endure the difficulties, or to see the deeper reasons for what is happening. (1 Peter 5:7, Joshua 1:9, Ephesians 1:19,20, Romans 8:28, 2 Corinthians 10:13)

The Armor of God

“Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor, then you can remain strong against the devil’s evil plans. Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world.

So put on all of God’s armor. Evil days will come. But you will be able to stand up to anything. And after you have done everything you can you will still be standing.

So remain strong in the faith. Put the belt of truth around your waist. Put the armor of godliness on your chest. Wear on your feet what will prepare you to tell the good news of peace. Also, pick up the shield of faith. With it you can put out all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Put on the helmet of salvation. And take the sword of the Holy Spirit. The sword is God’s word. At all times pray by the power of the Spirit.”

Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIRV)

With these weapons, we can defend ourselves from evil. Remember, we are not to fight evil with evil. We are to overcome it with good. Here is one of Dr. C’s favorite verses:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 (NIV)

Are all Muslims Arabs?

Because Islam originated in the Arab world, it is most often associated with Arabs. However, Arabs now represent a minority of Muslims worldwide. Indonesia has the largest number, followed by India. Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan are other non-Arab Islamic countries.

Turkish Travelogue

To give you the flavor of a part of the Muslim world, one where you can choose from an abundance of “evil eye” accessories in tourist shops, the video lesson concludes with a 5-minute Travel Segment of Turkey. Dr. Cynthia narrates a quick trip for you, from the Christian perspective. Watch for significant sights and events from around Istanbul and Asia Minor.

Turkey, now a Muslim country, was one of the first to receive the gospel, through the Apostle Paul. It became one of the earliest Christian regions, until conquered by Islam. Many locations from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible can be seen there.

At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Istanbul has been a hub of human activity for thousands of years. Perhaps you know that the Emperor Constantine made Constantinople, now Istanbul, the new capital of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire? And with his conversion to Christianity, it became a major Christian city.

Although Constantine made Christianity a legal religion of the Roman Empire, contrary to popular opinion he did not invent Christian doctrine. All the points of the gospel and of Jesus’ deity were laid out long before Constantine’s conversion, or the church councils he called. (See also Lesson on Why Believe the Bible.) And remember also, the Old Testament prophecies were so clear about Jesus, that they were the Bible the early church used, before the New Testament was written.

Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul, enjoyed nearly a thousand years of glory as a major church of the Christian World. It was once earth’s largest building. But with the fall of Constantinople to Islam in 1453 AD, it became a mosque. For a Christian visiting it now, seeing the large medallions of Islamic calligraphy bolted onto the walls of this spectacular church can be a heart-rending experience. Some even cry. But here and there, glorious golden mosaics survived the conversion to mosque, and from them, Jesus peeks out, depicted in his golden glory.

Christian church building attacks have become more common across the world. They are now happening in Europe as well as the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. In some countries they have become routine. To say this is terrible is an understatement. But thank God, the Bible tells us that God does not need a beautiful church to be worshipped in.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands. And he is not served by human hands as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all nations that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not very far from every one of us.” Acts 17:24-27

In the travelogue, Dr. C also shows us Ephesus and other sites traditionally associated with the Bible or early Christians. With such a rich Christian heritage, it is sad to see how Turkey came under the spiritual domination of Islam.

However, we are now seeing Muslim Turks coming out of Islam and back to Jesus. Please pray that the Turkish people will return to their Christian roots, and that the Holy Spirit will breathe new life into its ancient foundations.

“They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated.” Isaiah 61:4

Bible Messages to Turkey

Some of the Old Testament, and a significant part of the New Testament are about, or written to people who lived in what is now Turkey. Here is a sample of them:

On God

There is … one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

On Equality

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.

Salvation by Grace

By grace you have been saved, through faith – and that not of yourselves.
It is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

How to Live

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Know this love that surpasses knowledge –
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God.

Keeping the Faith

Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel
other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.

The First Sermon in Turkey

‘Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent… We tell you the good news. What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus…from the dead, never to see decay…Therefore, my brothers, I wat you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is preached to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law.’ When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord…The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.” Acts 13:26-49

An Invitation

In the last book of the Bible, Jesus gave a message to the church in Laodicea, a town near the modern city of Pamukkale. It compares our heart to a door.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in.
Revelation 3:20

Is your heart open to Jesus today?
Have you accepted him as your own Savior?
Is he living in you, giving you love, peace and joy, and guiding all day long?

References:

Scriptures (NIV unless otherwise stated)
II Corinthians 5:17
Leviticus 19:26, 31
I Peter 5:7
Ephesians 1:19,20
Romans 8:28
I Corinthians 10:13
Romans 12:21
Psalm 119:195
Hebrews 4:12
Isaiah 61:4
Ephesians 6:10-18 & 4:6, & 2:8,9 & 3:18,19
Galatians 1:8 & 3:28 & 5:22,23
Acts 13:26-49 & 17:24-27
Revelation 3:20

Definitions of terms used:
Jinn – demons converted to Islam (related to “genies”)
Tafsir – commentary, especially Qur’anic
Abraj – horoscope
Shouwajad – occultic practices like witchcraft
Al Hasad – the “evil eye,” often seen as a blue glass bead
Thawab – power

Note: the photograph of the Qur’an used in this video lesson is of the Topkapi Codex – an early Qur’anic manuscript in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.

Study Questions:

(Note to study leaders: This episode gives us much food for thought and discussion. You may select only a few of the below questions for discussion, or cover them in more than one session.)

  1. The discussion between Houssney and Dr. Cynthia brings to light occultic practices that our Muslim friends have, which might not be obvious in short acquaintance.
    • If you are from a Muslim background, reflect on what occultic practices you might have come across is life.
    • Are any affecting you now?
      • If so, are they ones you are involved in, or
      • ones around you?
    • If you are Christian, have you found occultic practices in your Muslim associates?
      • if so, which?
      • What about in yourself or associates?
  2. Huda says the Qur’an is like a spell:
    • What do you think she means by that?
    • How does it affect someone to be exposed to certain ways of thinking over and over?
      • Can you name Muslim behaviors which are difficult for the West to comprehend, but which become understandable in light of the effect of the Qur’an’s spell?
  3. Do you think we in the West could be brainwashed?
    • Name three concepts which have been repeatedly presented to the West over the last generation, or decade, in order to make them accepted.
    • Can you see ways in which this has changed our societies?
  4. If you are a Christian, do you think being under this constant exposure to Islamic discipline and doctrine would mold you into a good Muslim or cause you to rebel?
    • What if you did not know anything else?
    • If you are Muslim, how did this exposure affect you?
  5. Can and should Christians be “brainwashed?”
    • If so, what might that mean? (see Colossians 2:8 and Romans 12:2)
    • Are there ways in which Christians should allow their scriptures to affect them? (see Colossians 3:16)
    • How is the Christian sort of brainwashing similar and different to that of Islam?
    • Can you name other regimes which brainwash their people?
  6. Can you imagine what it would be like to be obligated to pray not only at set times in daylight hours, but to routinely pray late and to rise before dawn to pray and recite the Qur’an?
    • How would this affect your sleep?
    • How would this affect your work?
    • How might it affect the productivity of Muslim nations?
  7. Some popular Western films and stories revolve around the concept of rescuing someone who is captured physically, or by a totalitarian system.
    • Can you name such a tale?
    • Are there ways we can help rescue those in bondage to Islam?
    • How do Proverbs 24:11 and 31:8 come into play here?
    • How could we tie these Proverbs in with Matthew 28:19,20?
  8. Do you think God cares about those under such totalitarian regimes which rely on mind control?
    • How might he reach those people?
  9. What occultic practices are common in the West?
    • Might some of these be in your own life?
  10. In this episode, which Islamic concepts and practices did Huda says come to disbelieve after coming into contact with the Bible? (select all she mentioned)
    • The Qur’an taught much violence she felt was not of God
    • The Qur’an teaches that we are God’s slaves rather than children
    • The Qur’an has many, many rules
    • The Qur’an teaches God can hear us anywhere we pray, no matter what we wear

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Lesson on Liberty or Laws?

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Summary and Notes:

Quick Summary: This video lesson and study guide help us work through an age-old problem: is the Christian life to be characterized by freedom or obligations, liberty or laws? All Christians struggle with this. We usually end up emphasizing one side or the other of the balance.

As you might imagine, this question of liberty or laws is especially challenging for Christians of a Muslim background because everything in Islam, including their eternal destiny, depended on their successfully obeying laws.

Reality – Shopping Day

This video clip from the real life of former Muslim Huda and Dr. Cynthia might seem frivolous – just for fun or showing off. However, that is not the point. It brings to our attention the challenge of finding an appropriate wardrobe for Christian women, especially new believers who were raised Muslim.

Today we see Huda trying to find a suitable clothing. She looks to Dr. C for advice, but struggles to find something that they both think is acceptable.

Are there Rules in Christianity?

Every Christians must decide how their freedom in Christ will affect the way they live. This applies to believers from all backgrounds, men as well as women. If we are not careful, liberty can lead to a license for wild living, or caution can lead to legalism and judgementalism.

Coming from Islam, a religion based primarily on laws, presents a special challenge to this dilemma. As a Christian, former Muslims learn that they are saved by grace, not law. Now they are free from rules about fasting, praying, diet, and dress codes. Does that mean that they can do anything? Or will they simply exchange one restrictive code of rules for another?

In Islam, religion is tied to culture and politics more than in the West. Thus, they tend to see all Western behavior as reflective of Christianity, and acceptable to Christians. As a result, we find misunderstandings among Muslims of what Christianity teaches. This also impacts the thinking of Muslims who become Christians.

One of the things which often attracts a Muslim to Christianity is our freedom in Christ. The fact that we are loved and accepted by God without good deeds is a refreshing change for them. Their life in Islam is burdened with heavy labor, and every mistake recorded with no promise of salvation at the end. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said,

“Come to me all you who are tired and carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest… You will find rest for your souls. Serving me is easy, and my load is light.” (NIRV)

But for the burdened looking up, sometimes the attraction of freedom itself is too strong. Sadly, obtaining that freedom can become the Muslim’s chief goal, rather than the deeper blessing of knowing Christ.

For example: on-call to the houka bar: Brother E, an evangelist from Palestine who works with us, received an urgent night call from a Christian in a houka bar. It was from a young Arab man who was there with two young Muslim women. The women said wanted to convert to Christianity and needed a minister. Brother E is sociable, but does not go to houka bars. For this occasion, however, he went immediately.

After talking to the women for several hours, sharing the gospel, and discussing the Christian life with them, he realized that they did not want to become true Christians. Nor did they want to know Jesus personally. They simply wanted the life of license – dressing scantily, smoking, drinking alcohol, picking up men in bars – that they imagined Christians had. So, despite their requests, he did not pronounce them “Christians.” He left them as they were, simply “bad Muslims.”

It is not uncommon for us to find this motivation. We are thankful that at least these two Muslim women let Brother E share the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ with them. We believe that God’s word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Although they were not ready to respond to it at the time, we pray that later in their lives the Holy Spirit will open a door for the message that they heard to be received.

Are there Rules in Christianity? Dr. C & Rev. Georges Houssney in discussion

In the video lesson, Dr. Cynthia and experienced guest Georges Houssney discuss the challenge of bringing new disciples into discipline without delivering a burden of rules similar to what they carried under Islam. The two lay out guidelines reflective of how inward transformation can result in outward change.

Islam is a system with a long list of rules and laws. By following these laws, Muslims believe they obtain points, or thawab, and gain favor with Allah at the Day of Judgment. This gives them a better chance to enter paradise.

Dr. C explains to Houssney the challenges she has faced in encouraging new believers from a Muslim background. She wants to help them grow in disciplines like Bible study and prayer, without making them feel like they have simply entered another system of rules.

Houssney affirms that yes, Christians are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8,9), not by our good deeds. But if we want to grow as Christians, we need to follow certain things called disciplines. We are not obligated to do these for salvation, but if we do not, we will not fully live in Christ.

For example, to live we need to breath, eat, and drink. Similarly, to live spiritually we need to read the Word of God and pray. The fruit of the Spirit of God living in us gives us self-control, and enables us to do these things (Galatians 5:23).

Although these are suggestions, not rules, for their own growth, strength and joy, we encourage all believers, former Muslims and otherwise, to:

  • read the Bible daily
  • memorize verses that encourage them
  • take time for reflection and meditation on what they learned
  • pray to God throughout the day as in conversation
  • learn some spiritual songs to sing in their hearts
  • join with other believers in fellowship, and
  • serve God with their spiritual gifts.
  • (For more information on growing in Christ, see lessons and study guides on Lesson on Being New in God’s Family, The Christian Life, and others.)

Are there things Christians shouldn’t do?

Muslims often think that since Christians are saved by grace, that they are authorized to do anything – including immoral activities. Dr. C and Houssney discuss how much liberty we as Christians have. Can we do anything we want to and still be Christians? What about dressing scantily, drinking alcohol, swearing, sexual relationships, or going to R rated movies?

The Bible tells us that although all things may be permissible for us, not all things are helpful
(I Corinthians 6:12). Houssney says that yes, we have freedom, but we are told not to misuse it. We must live in a way that loves others and considers their good. We should not put a stumbling block before someone else, that might encourage them to sin.

“Be careful how you use your rights. Be sure you don’t cause someone weaker than you to fall into sin.” I Corinthians 8:9 (NIRV)

“The only thing that really counts is faith that expresses itself in love.” Galatians 5:4-6 (NIRV)

More on the Christian wardrobe:

As introduced in today’s reality video, a particular problem for the practice of Christian liberty that is in the area of dress. Dr. C has found this is especially a problem for women leaving Islam.
Men leaving Islam do not seem to face the same challenge, probably because men’s dress codes are less strict in both cultures.

First, know that it is not our policy to encourage any Muslim or former Muslim to take off their head scarf or dress in Western style. That should be a decision between them and God.

Imagine – you are a woman brought up that it is a sin to expose almost any of your body, possibly even your eyes or hands. How can you learn or “get a feel” for what is an acceptable amount of skin and/or figure to show now that you are a Christian?

Example, an Iraqi refugee woman: This lively and friendly 46-year-old Muslim woman is happy now to be safe in America, and is open to ideas of Christianity. But adjusting to dress standards in America has been difficult to her.

In Bagdad, Mrs. L always wore long skirts. Here, she got jobs that required her to wear pants/trousers – first loose, then tighter. Since she had to make the change for her job she did. She has been allowed a head scarf, which she still wears (hijab). Although it has been a few years, she has still not adjusted to wearing pants/trousers. She feels that people are looking at her body, and she is not comfortable with anyone – man or woman – doing that.

Example, Westernizing dress standards: Sometimes we see liberalizing of dress standards as an indication that a Muslim is becoming more open to the Christian message. For example, some Muslim women students that we followed for several years that removed their head scarves a year or two before they became Christian.

One, in her mid-twenties had worn a hijab outside the house since she was a young girl. She was thrilled with what Christians take for granted. On a lovely day, she was walking with Dr. C around a fountain in the town square near her campus. With an enthusiastic smile, lifted her hair with her fingers, and let the gentle breeze pass through it, saying,

“I just love the way the wind feels in my hair!”

Example, North African immigrants: Two married women in their thirties who were born overseas but grew up in America became frustrated with Islam and left it. One of them had dreams and became a Christian. The other has not. Both still wear hijabs for two reasons:

  • For safety – so that their families and Muslim communities they live in will not know they have left Islam. (They and their children could face trouble.)
  • Even when away from family, since they have worn head scarves their entire lives, they confess they have no idea of how to style their hair. This makes them insecure in removing their hijabs.

Example, Saudi Arabian women, now Christian: Several women we know who had to cover all but part of their face and hands in Saudi, are now sincere Christians in America. They want to wear miniskirts and low-cut tops showing cleavage. What should we say to them?

What is the appropriate way to dress now that you are a believer?

Think about how you might feel about changing from Muslim to Western dress. You might feel odd or “guilty” about showing anything – hair or even fingers, since you are breaking an ingrained pattern. But does that mean if you are going to feel guilty anyway, that you might as well show everything that anyone in Western culture shows?

In the Balance: Believers need to learn to balance freedom in Christ with modesty and Western lifestyle.

  • Houssney reminds us that although people look on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart (I Samuel 16:7).
  • True beauty comes from the inside, as we are told in both the Old and New Testaments (Proverbs 31:30 & I Peter 3:3,4). We should let our internal beauty flow out. In that way, we should care about what others think.

Example, a journalist: In Islamic countries, Westerners might be surprised to learn that a woman’s most attractive feature, after her face, is considered to be her hands. Once Dr. C read an article by a woman journalist in the Middle East. She was concerned about women’s rights and accepted dress standards. She pointed out that if hands are the only part of a woman that men can see, they will lust over a woman’s hands.

This shows Dr. C that no matter how modestly a woman dresses, it will not be modest enough to prevent sin in a man’s heart.

Example, an Imam: A high-ranking Imam in a large American city told Dr. C that if a man sees a woman and lusts – no matter what she is wearing – the sin belongs to the woman, not the man. She has somehow enticed him. This sharply contrasts with what Jesus taught,

“Here is what I tell you. Do not even look at a woman in the wrong way. Anyone who does has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28 (NIRV)

This important verse confirms that it is the heart that God is most concerned with. But Dr. C expresses concern that if women worry too much about how men see them, they can be reduced to covering their faces and hands with gloves, as in strict Islam.

Example, the cowering: Once when Dr. C was volunteering in an immigrant friendship center, she saw something that made her sad. Dr. C was in a room of Arab Muslim women who were studying English as a second language. One of the women was totally covered in black, with only narrow slits for her lovely eyes (niqab). Beyond that, even her hands were covered with black gloves.

The friendship center was directed by a man. When that man walked into the room to make an announcement, Dr. C was surprised to see the veiled woman bow her head, cower, and retreat into herself. Even covering everything was not enough. She had to become invisible.

So, Dr. C says there has to be a balance between a woman’s rights and a man’s lust. Women should respect men’s weakness, and not try to tempt them sexually. But shouldn’t women have the right to wear something in public that pleases them, without needing to cower or hide?

Houssney agrees. He quotes a saying, “If we dress sexy, we will get sex, if we dress lovely, we will get love.”

Of course, different cultures consider different areas of a woman attractive, and encourage different dress standards. So, it is not really possible to select one appropriate wardrobe for all Christian women in every situation. Somehow there must be a compromise.

The Compromise: In the end, Houssney and Dr. Cynthia agree that guidelines for Christian dress in America or Europe could be to try:

  • not to be a stumbling block (seductive)
  • to reflect well upon the Lord, and
  • generally, follow how a conservative person in Western culture might dress, in terms of how much of their body is shown. That way they will not stand out as looking for attention. (Usually this would mean nothing too tight, low cut, above the knee, or revealing the shoulder or upper arm.)

(For specific wardrobe suggestions for Christians working with Muslims, see lesson and study guide on Building Bridges.)

Legalism and Judgementalism:

Muslims that were comfortable with the rules of Islam, may feel comfortable continuing with rules as Christians, and fall into legalism.

  • There may be a necessity to continue in these laws outwardly in order to live as secret believers in their culture.
  • Some of the early Jewish Christians were very comfortable with laws, and tried impose rules back upon other Christians (see Acts 15 and the book of Galatians). The church leaders spoke to this error to correct it.

Legalism leads to judgementalism. A risk for former Muslims, as all Christians, who are successful with laws is judgementalism.

Several professional and reliable sources, and our own experiences, have reported a critical spirit in many people from the Middle East, especially Muslim women. Someone who falls easily into a legalistic Christian life style is at risk for developing a critical attitude toward those less strict than them.

In fact, it is common among all Christians to view someone more strict than them as legalistic, and someone less strict as morally loose. We should pray to avoid both these extremes.

Although we must be cautious about who we associate with, and encourage them to seek Christian virtues, we should also refrain from being judgmental.

“Don’t let anyone fool you. ‘Bad companions make a good person bad.’ You should come back to your senses and stop sinning. Some of you don’t know anything about God.” I Corinthians 15:33, 34 (NIRV)

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others.” Matthew 7:1 (NIRV)

Returning to Islam

Dr. C shares reasons that we have found for Muslims returning to Islam after leaving it. (Technically, this is called recidivism of an apostate).

For Christians working with Muslims, it is always sad to see a former Muslim returning to Islam. But this is not a new trend. It has been happening since the early days of missions to Muslims. Then it was at a very high rate of up to 70%.

One of the reasons for recidivism, returning to Islam, is that the new believer from Muslim background came to the faith for the wrong motives. Maybe they were getting something in exchange for converting – food, increased status, marriage, free life style, acceptance, etc. In that case it is very doubtful as to whether or not they ever sincerely believed in their heart, or if they were simply making a bargain which lost its appeal over time.

A common reason for returning to Islam is fear and intimidation. When a Muslim leaves Islam, they are automatically under a fatwa for death, which extends all the way back to the time of the Prophet Mohammed. It does not need to be specifically pronounced for each of them. Although new converts to Islam don’t always know, those raised in Islam know the fatwa is on the head of an apostate, and any Muslim is justified in killing them anytime. (See lessons and study guides on Fear, Persecution, and Spiritual Warfare, and Violence in Religion.)

If someone has left Islam and been captured, before execution takes place, they are given three days of reflection to consider returning to Islam. In reality, this becomes a time of intimidation and attempted brain washing This period of reindoctrination and reflection, is often accompanied by imprisonment and beatings. Only by great strength of will power, or the Holy Spirit is someone able to withstand these pressures. (See many published testimonies of Muslim converts to Christianity.)

Another reason for returning to Islam is because of missing family and cultural support. Anyone leaving their family and culture is prone to miss it, and Muslims especially so. Why?

  • First because Muslim culture is much more socially interconnected than Western: more group than individual.
  • Secondly, because being disowned and shunned by one’s family is a painful thing for anyone, and
  • Thirdly, Islamic culture is intimately entwined with their religion. The Muslim has been programmed to base their year around the events of Islam. The special foods, the activities, the ceremonies which formerly made their lives rich are now gone.

Economic survival is another reason for returning to Islam. Muslim economies are typically not strong and without government safety nets. Their safety nets are based on family, clan, and the mosque. When one leaves Islam, they not only lose family, but often their job and any means of survival. The Qur’an tells them that apostates should face hardships in this life. Not everyone faces starvation and privation willingly. In the short run it is easier to submit to Islam and eat, than risk starvation, even for heaven.

In America, thankfully economic survival is not tied to religion, so here that is not such a factor. However, it is not always easy for even well-educated English-speaking Americans to find a job; how much more difficult for immigrants, even international students, to compete with Americans? Dr. C has seen examples of Muslims who return to their home nation for economic survival, where they then face all the above pressures to return to Islam.

Sometimes, Dr. C has found, that former Muslims are so repulsed by Islam that it is not Islam that attracts them to leave Christianity. If what attracted them to become Christians was freedom from the bondage of Islamic Law, then they might be attracted to become secular. They become and more entangled in the ways of the world until they are little different from anyone in Western culture, and scarcely have any faith at all.

Dr. C tells Christians working with Muslims that they can assess what kind of risk Muslims have of returning to Islam by finding what most attracted them to Christianity.

And in any case, it is advisable for Christians discipling Muslims to provide for them emotional and social support to help make up for what they have lost in leaving Islam.

Facing Insecurity

Many in the Muslim world are facing insecurity. With the economies of most Muslim nations being weak, people wonder about finding jobs and supporting their families. Women especially face insecurity: what if my husband divorces me? What will happen to my children? If I struggle to study will my husband become angry at my new independence? To whom will my father marry me? Will I be beaten tonight?

Mark Vyka is facing insecurity. In fact, he is dying of cancer. In this video he shares what has helped him face the insecurities of life.

When facing insecurity, Mark recommends that we read the Bible and look for a verse that encourages us, then “camp on it.” By this he means that we would think about it, meditate upon it and even memorize it. He encourages us to seek God first, because when we do, everything else falls into place (Matthew 6:33). If we walk in faith, God will provide for us what we need and a way to escape from our fear, temptation or problem (Genesis 22:14, I Corinthians 10:13).

(This video is in memory of our beloved brother in Christ, Mark Vyka 1957-2016.)

Scripture References for this Episode:

  • II Corinthians 5:17
  • Matthew 11:28-30
  • Isaiah 55:11
  • Ephesians 2:8,9
  • Galatians 5:23
  • I Corinthians 6:12
  • I Corinthians 8:9
  • Galatians 5:4-6
  • I Samuel 16:7
  • I Peter 3:3,4
  • I Samuel 16:7
  • Proverbs 31:30
  • I Peter 3:3,4
  • Matthew 5:28.20
  • Acts 15
  • Galatians
  • Matthew 7:1
  • Matthew 6:33
  • Genesis 22:14
  • I Corinthians 10:13

Islamic References:

Mohammed said to kill those who leave Islam:

  • Qur’an in Surah 4:89
  • HadithSahih Bukhari 52:260 & 84:57.

Study Questions:

  1. If you are a former Muslim, how did the freedom of Christians you knew personally, or saw in media, impact your decision to become a Christian?
    • Was it favorable or unfavorable?
    • What part of your conversion was desiring the freedom that you thought Christians had?
    • If time allows and you want to, perhaps you could share these ideas with the group.
  2. How might the Christian lifestyle be different than that of a strict Muslim?
    • Dress for men?
    • Dress for women?
    • Prayer and other spiritual disciplines?
  3. What are some principles that Rev. Houssney and Dr. Cynthia suggest might be helpful in assisting new Muslim background Christians in adapting to Western behaviors which reflect Christ, rather than worldliness?
  4. In reflecting over the course of your Christian life:
    • Have you been more inclined to liberty and license, or laws and legalism?
    • If liberty vs. laws is a spectrum from one extreme to the other, where along that line do you see yourself at this moment?
    • Do you think there is something you could do improve this balance?
  5. What are the disciplines that Houssney and Dr. C encourage all Christians to participate in.
    • To what point do you think it would be good for Christians to participate in these?
    • Can you think of what might be too much or too little participation in these?
  6. Are there ways that you could apply Houssney and Dr. C’s dress guidelines to your life?
  7. Have you ever been used to wearing a watch or ring, and then lost it, forgotten to wear it one day?
    • How did you feel going without it?
    • Does this give you insight into how someone might feel when they start to dress differently?
  8. It is not easy to assist someone walk through the transition from a life of rules to a life of controlled freedom.
    • Do you know someone who might be in need of guidelines such as Dr. C and Houssney present?
    • Without being judgmental, what might be an appropriate way to share these guidelines with them?
    • What response might you expect at first? Over time?
  9. How do you think a person’s clothing reflects who they are and what they believe?
  10. Dr. C loves to go out with Muslims. Mostly this is to connect with them and make friends. But another thing she likes is seeing how people react to her, a blond woman, with one or more people in Islamic dress. She thinks this is good for several reasons, including the people she is with and those watching them. Why do you think it would be good:
    • For the Muslims she is with?
    • For the people watching them?
  11. Would you consider dressing as a Muslim in your community some day as a learning experience?
    • Do you think that would be a good idea?
    • Why or why not?

© Copyright by ChristianfromMuslim.com, 2019. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.

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Lesson on Jesus’ Style of Teaching and Living

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Summary and Notes:

Quick summary: In learning about the Christian faith, or as part of becoming a Christian, it is very important for Muslims, and others, to learn about Jesus. This video lesson and study guide are to help give people unfamiliar with Jesus, insight into the special ways he taught and lived.

(See also the lesson and study guide for Jesus’ Parables for Muslims, which is a companion lesson to this one.)

Reality – getting attention.

Today’s video lesson opens with Dr. Cynthia by the pool on a beautiful day. She is typing on a laptop, wearing earphones. Huda enters and tries to catch her attention. Huda wants to talk about Jesus.

In our electronic age, flashy things grab our attention; but such things did not exist in Jesus’ day. He had to get attention by other means. One was miracles. Another was through his special teaching style.

Understanding Jesus Teaching Style

The setting changes. We see Huda and Dr. C entering a lovely gazebo surrounded by a lake in an urban setting. Here Dr. C and Huda draw analogies from the world around them, in a way similar to what Jesus did in his teaching.

It is important to understand the style of Jesus’ teaching so we can:

  • Fully absorb the point he was making
  • Keep from being confused or finding it a stumbling block
  • Not misapply what he says
  • Explain these things to others
  • Use Jesus’ techniques when we share God’s word with others

The Purposes of Jesus teaching

The purposes of Jesus teaching were to:

  • draw attention
  • challenge people’s thinking
  • touch hearts
  • teach and to prophesy

To do this, Jesus used various teaching techniques, to make his points clear.

Techniques Jesus used in Teaching:

  • Drawing illustrations from the environment surrounding him
  • Using common everyday objects and activities
  • Telling stories known as parables
  • Using similes and metaphors (saying what things are like)
  • Speaking plainly
  • Occasionally speaking poetically (beatitudes)
  • Exaggerating (hyperbole)
  • Setting an example with his life

The Sermon on the Mount

Jesus’ most famous sermon is called The Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7, Jesus uses these techniques to explain how to live for God’s kingdom. The video lesson demonstrates several for us.

Rather than focusing on rules and condemnation, this sermon presents love and inner change. This was in contrast to the methods of the religious leaders of his time, who emphasized rules. Emphasis on the rules in Jesus day was similar to the emphasis on rules in Islam.

The Beatitudes, poetically phrased blessings, begin the Sermon on the Mount. They are famous in the Christian faith, and are worth being familiar with.

One beatitude is Blessed are the peacemakers. We happened to get a real-life video illustration of this: Kevin, a mature Christian, is shown being a peacemaker between arguing neighbors.

Also, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used nature, objects, stories, and exaggeration. Besides getting the crowd’s attention, they illustrated his points and helped people remember them – that the Kingdom of God is more important than the physical world.

Worry is a trap that we all fall into from time to time, and for some of us it is a continual habit. Science has discovered that worrying is unhealthy. So in this, as in many other areas, Jesus is showing us the best way to live.

Jesus directed our attention to birds and flowers. For our encouragement, he suggests that we meditate upon them and what they are doing. They exemplify what is nowadays called “living in the moment,” without worrying about the future.

I tell you do not worry. Don’t worry about your life and what you will eat or drink. And do not worry about your body and what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than eating? Aren’t there more important things for the body than clothes?

Look at the birds of the air. They don’t plant or gather crops. They don’t put away crops in storerooms. But your Father who is in heaven feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they are?…

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the wild flowers grow. They don’t work or make clothing. But here is what I tell you. Not even Solomon in all his royal robes was dressed like one of these flowers. If that is how God dresses the wild grass, won’t he dress you even better?…

But put God’s kingdom first. Do what he wants you to do. Then all those things will also be given to you. So don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 6:25-33 (NIRV)

Jesus also spoke plainly about prayer, fasting, money, and forgiveness. Let’s compare his teachings with those of Islam:

Muslim Prayer

Muslims perform ritual prayers in Arabic several times a day. They can be done alone or in a group. They must be performed in a specified way. Those around you know if you are praying or not. Often, other Muslims judge how religious you are by watching your prayer life.
(For details on this, see Lesson on Introduction to Islam for Christians.)

Jesus way of Prayer

“When you pray, do not be like those who only pretend to be holy … They want to be seen by people … When you pray, go into your room. Close the door and pray to your Father, who can’t be seen. Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly.”

Matthew 6:5,6 (NIRV)

Muslim Fasting

Muslims have a strong tradition of fasting. Its practice is very different than Jesus suggests. Although there are other fasts in Islam, Ramadan is the Muslim holy month of fasting, where the entire community fasts during daylight hours. Eating in public is forbidden. Those not fasting are noticed and judged. (For details on this, see Lesson on Introduction to Islam for Christians.)

Jesus way of Fasting

In contrast to the open show of Muslim fasting, Jesus says,

“When you go without eating, do not look gloomy like those who only pretend to be holy. They make their faces look very sad. They want to show people they are fasting. What I’m about to tell you is true. They have received their complete reward.

But when you go without eating, put olive oil on your head. Wash your face. Then others will not know that you are fasting. Only your Father, who can’t be seen, will know it. Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly.”

Matthew 6:16-18 (NIRV)

Again, we see with this teaching that Jesus is emphasizing our inner life. Does this mean we cannot attend an Eid al Fitr party at the end of Ramadan? No. We have found it to be a good time make friends, and to talk about Jesus teaching on prayer and fasting.

Regarding ritual prayer and fasting

As we point out throughout these lessons, Muslims work very hard to gain merit with God. They feel that they need to earn forgiveness through good works. Our approach is not to belittle this effort. What we say is something like this,

“God appreciates that we try to do good. But his standard is perfection. None of us is perfect. We all need forgiveness for our sins. God showed us through his prophets that his way is blood sacrifice for sin, but he accepts a substitute. Jesus is the prophesied final sacrifice for sin. His blood covers our sins and will substitute for us if we accept it.”

Loving our Enemies

Louis of Truth Defenders talks to us about loving our enemies, and money.

Loving our Enemies. One radical aspect of the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ instruction to love our enemies. It seems natural to love our friends and hate our enemies. But Jesus told us,

“Love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you.” Matthew 5:44

Louis points out that in his view, this teaching is unique to Jesus. Jesus forgave his persecutors when he was on the cross.

“Father forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 (NIRV)

Love and forgive your enemies, like most virtues, is easy to say, but difficult to do. Muslim refugees in the West have often faced atrocities. Perhaps all they owned was taken away, and family members were killed, raped or tortured. Can you imagine the challenges they might face with accepting and applying these verses?

The film “The Passion of the Christ” powerfully illustrates how Jesus forgave his persecutors from the cross. God used it to show Dr. C hardness in her own heart. After watching all the torture that they put Jesus through, she felt like screaming, “No! Don’t forgive them! They were too evil!”

Serving God or Money?

Louis tells us that surprisingly, the Bible speaks more about money than any other topic. Jesus also spoke about money. That is because the use of it reflects people’s hearts, and Jesus main goal in the Sermon on the Mount was to get people to look inside their own hearts.

“You can’t serve God and money at the same time.” Matthew 6:24 (NIRV)

How Jesus Exaggerates

Many people find it difficult to understand his message when Jesus exaggerates. For example, Matthew 5:30, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.”

Yet, as Huda points out in the video, when she says her headache is “killing her,” she does not really mean that she is dying. She means that it is very severe.

Likewise, when Jesus talks about throwing away your eye or hand, he is showing us how serious an offense an eye or hand can cause. He wants to motivate people to guard their hands and eyes against sin.

It would be wrong however, to take exaggeration out of context and say that Jesus taught mutilation (meaning hurting our bodies to please God).

History’s Greatest Speaker

Given near the beginning of his ministry, The Sermon on the Mount established Jesus as a great speaker, with an amazing gift of teaching.

“When Jesus had finished saying all these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” Matthew 7:28,29

The Sermon on the Mount itself is a powerful evangelistic tool for Muslims and others. We have found that distributing it, encouraging Muslims to read it, or even quoting a small part of it in the right setting, can open eyes to the dramatic difference between Jesus’ teachings and those of Islam and other ideologies. It lets people taste that God is good (Psalm 34:8), and gives them hunger to know more.

Later in his career, Jesus clearly prophesied his own death, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and the end times. And he confronted the religious hypocrites to the point that they did have him killed.

Living as Salt of the Earth

“You are the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13

You learned in this video lesson and study guide that Jesus would teach by using everyday life situations, and things in nature around them. That is exactly what we try to pattern in our daily life with Muslims, and the former Muslims that we are discipling.

You have seen many examples of using common things and events of everyday life in the reality sections of this video lesson series. We call this style Out of the Saltshaker, because it is an easy and practical way that we can be as Jesus says, salt of the earth. Often you might hear Dr. C saying, “And that reminds me of…”

In fact, once a Christian develops this skill, they can use it with everyone – from teaching their children to encouraging their friends and loved ones– and hopefully, they do it with love and wisdom.

Life is full of SALTSHAKER opportunities. Here’s how to find them:

  • Know God’s word the best you can (he will use whatever you know) 2 Timothy 2:15
  • Ask God to open your eyes to see opportunities for salting Colossians 4:3
  • Once he does, you will start to see them everywhere John 4:35
  • Have courage and speak, remembering that, “Kind words make people want to learn more.” (NIRV) Proverbs 16:21

Jesus’ Lifestyle

Many people in the West have a vague idea of what Jesus’ ministry was like. But it is unlikely that people from a Muslim background would know, unless they are one of the millions that have seen a film about the life of Jesus.

Even then, they might be confused about what he was doing, because his lifestyle was so different from that of the prophets they are familiar with. Muslims might be expecting Jesus’ life to be like Prophet Mohammed’s life, or perhaps like Abraham’s. They might try to fit Jesus into their mold.

Muslims could be surprised to learn of the type of life Jesus lived, after he began his ministry at about age 30. He was neither village man, nor hermit, king, military leader, nor powerful man of influence. Jesus was a traveling teacher with students, a rabbi, of a type that was not uncommon in those days.

Rather than write out all of the Bible verses about Jesus in this study guide, we will let you do that on your own. Instead, what is presented here is a summary of Jesus wonderful life, as brief as we can make it, while covering the important basics.

Brief Summary of the Life and Lifestyle of Jesus Christ

While always existing and still filling the universe, God once humbled himself by coming to earth in human form as the prophesied messiah. This was Jesus Christ.

On earth, Jesus spent time alone in prayer and meditation to confirm what he must do. He started by teaching about the Kingdom of God. It was now nearby, he said, and everyone could live in it! Anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, Jesus went around doing good, and healing everyone who came to him – Jews, Gentiles from the surrounding regions, and even Roman oppressors – the nation’s enemies.

Jesus touched people to heal them, including unclean people, like lepers. He was willing to enter the homes of unbelievers, considered unclean, in order to bring the grace of God to them. He was entertained in the homes of the wealthy. But he himself had no home of his own, no wife, no children, and little support from his family.

Emmanuel is one of Jesus’ special names. It means God with us. This thought is so surprising and unexpected, that Muslims have trouble accepting it. God lived with us, ate with us, slept and got dirty with us, and was even tempted as we are. But Jesus never sinned, as even the Qur’an recognizes.

Jesus taught us in ways that we would always remember. Mostly he taught in parables – stories that touched our hearts. But at times he gave examples from everyday life that made spiritual principles come alive. Once in a while he clearly told us what we needed to know.

Jesus was comfortable speaking to either large crowds, or to his select followers. Women traveled with his group, and in all but the most private occasions were taught by him, along with his male disciples. Some of the women were wealthy and helped support him and his work; yet he never used them sexually.

The crowds found Jesus’ teaching amazing and his miracles astounding. He was nothing like any religious leader they had ever met. Love and honesty were balanced in his gracious teaching.

Although he told us we could live like birds and flowers who trusted in God’s provision, he knew when people needed to be confronted for their own good: like the dishonest tax collector Zacchaeus, and the religious leaders whom he rebuked for their pride and hypocrisy.

One day he met a Samaritan woman, an outcast for her race, gender, and lifestyle. He reminded her of her past; but then he offered her “living water,” fresh, and more satisfying than her failed love affairs. God’s grace had come to her, and through her to entire village.

Jesus and his followers had frightening experiences in which they were almost killed by nature and by humans. In these dangers, Jesus had confidence in God that they would be fine, because he knew it was not yet his time to die. To his disciples’ surprise, he simply slept or calmly walked away.

The time came however when Jesus began to predict his betrayal, trial, and cruel death. Being human as well as God, just before his arrest he prayed in agony to avoid the coming torture. He knew the extent of the suffering he would and did face. But Jesus willing endured it in order to accomplish the plan of God. He kept his eyes on the goal that was the ultimate purpose of his life – taking upon himself God’s full anger for the sin of the world he had created.

But as Jesus had predicted he did not stay in the grave! He willingly laid down his life on Good Friday, and took it up again on Easter. After appearing to about five hundred of his followers, encouraging them and reinforcing his teaching, Jesus returned to heaven.

Jesus gave his followers, then and now, last instructions to accomplish before his return to judge the world. They should go throughout the world, peacefully teaching his gospel to everyone – the good news of repentance, forgiveness, and eternal life in God’s kingdom, which they could start living in right now!

Jesus’ life is his greatest teaching example. Let’s look at passages in the Injeel (New Testament) various aspects of it that we should try to reproduce in our own lives.

Jesus showed us how to live:

  • Take time to be alone with God Mark 1:35
  • Be tempted without sinning Hebrews 4:15
  • Don’t worry Matthew 8:24-26
  • Be responsive to the needs of others Mark 5:23,24
  • Associate with people lower than us Luke 5:12,13
  • Treat all people as equals Matthew 8:5-11
  • Serve humbly Philippians 2:6-8
  • Help the ill and needy Acts 10:38
  • Teach what we know in a way that others can understand Matthew 5-7
  • Tell people the truth they need to know John 4
  • Obey laws, pay taxes Matthew 22:17-22
  • Be willing to confront evil and hypocrisy, in love, even when it makes us unpopular Matthew 23
  • Lay down our lives for the kingdom of God John 10:18
  • Suffer for doing God’s will – when it is unavoidable Matthew 26:38
  • Have faith that something better awaits us as a reward Hebrews 12:2

(See also the lesson and study guide on What Makes a True Prophet?)

Reality – Lessons from Surfing

The current lesson includes a reality segment filmed at a famous surfing beach in Santa Cruz, California. Huda and Dr. C have fun watching surfers catch waves, and sometimes loose them. It’s a great place for imitating the way Jesus taught, by drawing lessons from nature and human activities.

Notice that first Dr. C talks about how good it is to catch a wave in life – either literally or figuratively. We feel like we are sitting on top of the world! But as we watch surfers either loose the wave, or even crash, we are reminded that life is a ride of ups and downs. God is our foundation whether we are doing well, feeling left out as life passes us by, or when the waters sweep over us.

Our attention is also drawn to the tremendous physical effort it takes not only to catch and surf the waves, but also to simply carry a surfboard up and down the rocky cliffs to reach the surfing ground. This reminds Dr. C of 1 Timothy 4:8. In this verse Paul tells Timothy,

“Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.”

Although physical exercise is of value, it is of much greater value to put effort into praying, reading the Bible, serving others, and be close to God.

Scripture References:

  • II Corinthians 5:17
  • Matthew 5-7
  • Luke 23:34
  • Psalm 34:8
  • II Timothy 2:15
  • Colossians 4:3
  • John 4:1-42
  • Proverbs 16:21
  • Matthew 23 & 24
  • John 13:34,35
  • Mark 10:43-45
  • John 13:12
  • Hebrews 2:10
  • Mark 1:35
  • Hebrews 4:15
  • Matthew 8:24-26
  • Mark 5:23,24
  • Luke 5:12,13
  • Matthew 8:5-11
  • Philippians 2:6-8
  • John 13:4,5
  • Acts 10:38
  • John 4
  • Matthew 22:17-22
  • Matthew 23
  • John 10:18
  • Matthew 26:38
  • Hebrews 12:2
  • I Timothy 4:8

Qur’an reference:

  • Jesus sinless – Surah 19:19

Study Questions:

  1. Jesus taught from the surrounding environment. His style fulfilled the Old Testament commands of Deuteronomy 6 and 11 to teach our children about God’s word wherever we are and in everyday situations.
    • Give an example of an everyday setting or thing that Jesus taught with.
    • Can you think of a situation of object in your life in which you could similarly find a lesson for yourself or to share with others? Share this example with the group and see if they too find it meaningful.
  2. When time allows,
      read the entire Sermon on the Mount

    (Matthew chapters 5-7). In this and elsewhere, Jesus taught from nature.

    • Give an example of something from nature Jesus used as an example in this sermon
    • There are months’ worth of discussion topics in this sermon, but name one or two points that especially touch you.
  3. Read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. Kevin exemplifies for us being a real-life peacemaker.
    • Can you give an example of someone who fits one of the other beatitudes?
    • Is there one you feel you come close to exemplifying?
  4. Some of the more difficult to understand of Jesus’ teachings involve exaggeration.
    • Give an example of where Jesus exaggerates
    • Can you think of an exaggeration you or a friend said to emphasize your point?
    • Can you see how Jesus exaggeration could cause people to take something he said too literally?
  5. In this lesson, apologist Louis of Truth Defenders spoke about money. Much of our lives has to do with the getting and spending of money.
    • What did Jesus say about money in the “Sermon on the Mount?”
  6. Consider Jesus’ lifestyle:
    • Is there anything about what you learned today that surprised you?
    • What parts of Jesus’ lifestyle are you currently sharing?
    • What parts of Jesus’ lifestyle might you like to accomplish more in your life?
  7. The lesson illustrates Jesus teaching us humility through serving others, for example washing his disciples’ feet (John 13:4,5). If you have read enough about Jesus to know how he lived, share one or two examples of how he taught through his example.
  8. Regarding the surfing segment:
    • Have you ever surfed? If so, can you share with the group what kind of physical effort is involved?
    • What other sport might you have participated in? Does having done this help you relate to the scripture verse from I Timothy?
    • Not shown in the video lesson because of poor quality audio, was a reality segment with Huda saying that the ocean waves reminded her of God’s blessings. They come new every day. Dr. C said that since the waves reminded her of new trials every day, Huda had the more positive spiritual outlook.
      • Which do you tend feel come more your way each new day: blessings or trials?
  9. Forgiving our enemies:
    • Have you ever felt that there is someone you don’t want forgiven? Someone who has mistreated you? A political enemy? A monstrous dictator?
    • Does loving and praying for our enemies mean that they should not face justice for their crimes?
    • Think about someone now that you would not be pleased to see in heaven with you. Ask God to soften your heart. Then pray for them to hear God’s voice and follow his ways.
  10. Encouragement from Nature: Lilias Trotter has a fascinating life story. She left a life of Victorian wealth and a promising artistic career to become a missionary to Muslims. Lilias gave her money and health to set up missions in North Africa.

    Rather than gain her fame and money, she used her artistic skill to illustrate spiritual truths. Lilias had a heart condition. She found her work very stressful. One thing that helped Lilias relax was to look at nature, meditate upon it, listen for God to speak through it, and paint pictures of it.

    • Was there a time in your life when you were encouraged by something in nature?
    • Can you remember how it made you feel? Or what message it gave you?
    • Do you think it would be of benefit to meditate on nature regularly?
    • How might you incorporate nature into your life? Perhaps taking a daily walk? Planting a garden? Getting a pet? Simply looking up at the sky when you walk to work? Other ideas?

© Copyright by ChristianfromMuslim.com, 2019. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.

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Lesson on The Bible and the Qur’an

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In this lesson we focus not on which holy book is true, but the different ways that Christians and Muslims approach the Bible and the Qur’an as their respective holy books. It is important for Muslims to understand this when they start to read the Bible, and for Christians who share with Muslims to be able to know what their Muslim friends would be expecting from past experience with their own holy book.

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Lesson on Why Believe the Bible?

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In learning about Jesus and how to live the Christian life, the Bible is of utmost importance. Christians claim the message of the Bible has not changed in thousands of years. Muslims claim that it has been corrupted and is unreliable, and that to follow God, one must rely on the Qur’an. Which is true?

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Lesson on Being New in God’s Family

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Several Christians welcome Huda, and all new believers in Jesus into the Christian family. This lesson has testimonies, including Huda’s, and gives advice to help newcomers get started on the Christian walk. It talks about getting and giving “discipleship.” For fun, we take a quick trip to Egypt.

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