Protestants have a hard time listening to and learning from Catholics. Both are Christians, but we all like to find enough of a difference with others to justify not learning from them. Think of how much more true this is with people from a completely different religion? When was the last time you truly learned something significant in your life from someone of a different religion?

Yasmin Mogahed has written a helpful piece on marriage. We can all learn something from it. What so impressed me though, was that what she shared she had learned from a Christian author. She references Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Emerson Eggerichs. In this book he lays out research that says that men most need respect from their wives while woman most need love from their husbands. The problem, then, is that when a husband isn’t loving to his wife, she often responds with disrespect, which leads to unloving behavior from the husband and on and on. It is a cycle that can only be broken when the husband determines to love his wife whether she is respectful or not. Or when the wife determines to respect her husband whether he shows love or not. This idea about love and respect comes right out of the Bible, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).

I love that this Muslim woman is setting such a good example for the rest of us. She knows that she has a lot to learn from Christians. I have seen this first hand in my own life. It was my Syrian Muslim neighbors in Damascus who taught me what it means to be a good neighbor. This was especially good for me to learn since Jesus the Messiah commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). I have always been so grateful for what they taught me about being a good neighbor through hospitality and genuine concern and love for a neighbor.

When was the last time you learned something from someone from a different religion? If you haven’t, why not?

HT: Tia

The Word of God became flesh (John 1:14) so that he might save humans. There was no other way. The guilt of our sin required death (see Gen 2:17). Either we die and pay this penalty or someone worthy (i.e. one who has no sin) dies in our place. Jesus Christ was the only one worthy. He was a man and thus a suitable substitute, but he was also God and thus a worthy substitute for countless people who would believe. But our problem is bigger than just guilt. We we also bear the shame of our sin and all of its defilement. We must be made clean. God the Son became flesh, not only to die in our place for our sin and guilt, but also to cleanse us from the inside out. He did not shy away from flesh that is so easily defiled. He became flesh and in so doing made flesh clean, even when encountering the defiling forces of this fallen world.

Throughout the law we see that no one could make another clean. Only God makes clean. When Jesus was on earth he was so pure that he could touch those who were unclean and instead of becoming unclean himself, they were cleansed. He made them clean. No priest ever made one clean; priests merely pronounced one was clean after God had made them clean.1 What was different about Jesus? He was and is the God who is clean. He does not pronounce others clean, he makes them clean.

This, in part, is why he became man. He became man to cleanse us. Light drives out darkness simply by entering into a dark place. God drives out defilement of our flesh by taking on flesh himself.


1. We repeatedly read the phrase, “the priest shall pronounce him clean” in Leviticus 13 (vv. 6, 13, 23, 28, 34, 37 and also 14:7).

Other posts in this series

Cleansing from Defilement, Part 1: Introduction
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 2: The Danger of Defilement
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 3: Distinguishing between the Clean and Unclean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 4: What Makes One Unclean?
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 5: Uncleanness is Contagious and Defiles the Camp
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 6: Defilement and Purity in the New Testament
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7a: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7b: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Baptism
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7c: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Death and Resurrection
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 8: The Incarnation Was Necessary for Our Cleansing

Real Men

Muslims love and respect all prophets, but it is not surprising that they revere Mohammad as the greatest of all prophets since they believe he is the last prophet and the seal of the prophets. In Asif Balouch’s post, “Top Ten Traits of a Real Man (Muslim Style)” he uses the prophet Mohammad as a template for what a real man is. He rightly rejects our culture’s many definitions of a real man as one who can hold the most liquor, sleep with the most women, have the hairiest chest, shoot the biggest guns, beat up the most people, etc.

I fully agree with his lists of ten traits of a real man (read his piece for a full explanation). They are not only Islamic traits, but biblical traits. Here are his ten traits and my biblical support for each.

1. A Real Man Reads
In the Injil the Messiah said we are to love the Lord God will all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). In the Zabur (the Psalms) we read, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

2. A Real Man Is a Focused Man
But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7).

3. A Real Man Is Gentle but Firm
The Messiah said this about himself, “Take my yoke upon you, and  learn from me, for I am  gentle and lowly in heart, and  you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29) and an elder (a leader within the church) must be “not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:3).

4. A Real Man Is a Family Man
Husbands are called to “love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25) and leaders in the church “must manage his own household well, with all dignity  keeping his children submissive” (1 Timothy 3:4).

5. A Real Man doesn’t Slander/Backbite/Cuss/Gossip
“But now  you must put them all away:  anger, wrath, malice,  slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Colossians 3:8).

6. A Real Man Keeps His Promises
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and  stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

7. A Real Man Respects All Women
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave  nor free,  there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

8. A Real Man Keeps His House in Order
This trait is about helping with chores and not merely saying it isn’t a man’s job. The first verse that came to mind here is “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Those in a man’s family are his closest neighbors.

9. A Real Man Handles His Own Money
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

10. A Real Man Knows He’s Being Tested
Count it all joy, my brothers,  when you meet trials  of various kinds,  3 for you know that  the testing of your faith  produces steadfastness.  4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be  perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).


Anas Hlayhel wrote a helpful and short piece on how Muslims can respond when the prophet Mohammad is mocked, “Mocking the Prophet, How Should We React?“. It is well reasoned and rooted in the Qur’an. Here is a short outline:

1. Mockery is equivalent to ignorance.
2. Ignore the ignorant (i.e. the foolish), but engage and even debate the reasonable.
3. Allah will take care of the mocker, so you don’t need to.
4. Respect other faith symbols, even idols, lest others disrespect Islam.

Please read the whole thing in order to see the Qur’anic reasoning behind his points.

All of the levitical offerings (the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering,1 the guilt offering, and the peace offering) have been fulfilled in the offering of the Jesus the Messiah on the cross. The good news of the gospel is that “the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).2 Typically when we think of the death of Jesus we think of the removal of God’s wrath and the forgiveness of sin. Rarely do we also recognize the beauty of Christ’s cleansing work. By his death we are made clean.

The cleansing that comes from Christ is superior than the cleansing received under the law because it comes, not through the blood of animals, but through the blood of the pure and blameless Messiah—a man. “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:13-14).

The sacrifice of the Son of God was the one sacrifice worthy and sufficient to truly make people clean. The old sacrifices were insufficient in that they had to be offered continually. There was no end to them because they never truly took away sin (Hebrews 10:4). But now that Christ has come and offered himself as the perfect lamb of God, sins are truly removed. All sins. So the author of Hebrews is able to say, “After making purification for sins, [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). Christ’s work was finished.

Christ’s purifying work was so complete that he has washed and sanctified us in ways the levitical sacrifices never could. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22). It used to be that only the high priest could enter the holy place, because he alone was consecrated by God to be in the fullness of his presence,3 but now we all have confident access (we do not need to fear that we will be put to death as Aaron did [see Leviticus 16:2, 13]). Our hearts are sprinkled clean. Our bodies are washed with pure water. Not only are we cleansed, but we are sanctified, “. . . we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).

One of the flaws of the purification sacrifices in the law is that while they could cleanse us and make us fit to enter God’s presence, they could do nothing to keep us from being defiled the next time we come in contact with something unclean. The death of Jesus Christ, however, not only cleanses us from all past impurities, but actually guards us from all future impurities. By virtue of being in Christ we are impervious to defilement. Just as Jesus, by his touch, made the unclean clean without being defiled himself, so he now makes all who are in him clean at all times because we are always in him. Furthermore, because of his death we are even today being sanctified (see Hebrews 10:14), so that our hearts are actually changed in such a way as to no longer desire the defiling sin we once loved. So Paul was able to write to Titus, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled” (Titus 1:15).


1 Allen Ross calls this the “sin offering” a “purification offering.” The word here for sin (ḥaṭṭā𐑮t) is derived from the piel, which means “to cleanse or purify.” This also makes better sense of the usage of the offering since it was necessary for one to also be made clean from things that were not sin (like menstruation, child birth, intercourse, etc.). See Ross, Holiness to the Lord, 129-130.

2 Yes, the Bible does call Jesus God’s son. It does not mean that God had sex with Mary and produced a child. To see what it does and does not mean, see my series on The Son of God, especially part 4 (Jesus Christ Is the Son of God) and part 5 (Jesus Christ Is God’s Unique Son)

3 And even when he entered he had to be very careful so as to not be destroyed (Leviticus 16:2), for example, he had to burn incense so that the smoke of the incense would obscure his view of the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat where God’s presence was centered (see Leviticus 16:12-13). This cloud is, in some sense, still present, even as we enter God’s holy presence, but one day the cloud will be removed and we will see clearly (see 1 Corinthians 13:12).

Other posts in this series

Cleansing from Defilement, Part 1: Introduction
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 2: The Danger of Defilement
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 3: Distinguishing between the Clean and Unclean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 4: What Makes One Unclean?
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 5: Uncleanness is Contagious and Defiles the Camp
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 6: Defilement and Purity in the New Testament
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7a: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7b: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Baptism
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7c: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Death and Resurrection
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 8: The Incarnation Was Necessary for Our Cleansing

War or Peace

Is Islam a religion of war or peace? I get asked this question a lot. I know that people are asking this question again after all of the attacks on US embassies throughout the Middle East. I’ll give you my answer to this question and then I’ll tell you why I am posting about it.

I don’t know. There you have it, that’s my answer. I don’t claim to be an expert in Islam. Even if I was I am not sure how well I could answer this question. Honestly, I see lots of reasons why people conclude that Islam is a religion of war. There are Muslim scholars who confirm this (though they might not state it this way). There are some really hard verses in the Qur’an. There are plenty of violent acts throughout the history of Islam. And of course, we see the violence perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam all around the world.

However, I can also see lots of reasons why people conclude that Islam is a religion of peace. There are Muslims scholars who confirm this. There are good pointers in the Qur’an towards peace. Within the history of Islam there have been times of peace and prosperity. And of course, we see acts of kindness and love perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam all around the world.

So which is it? Again, I honestly don’t know. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t really care. That probably doesn’t sound good. Honestly, I am not that concerned about what true Islam is. I am more concerned about what my Muslim friend believes. This is not because I don’t care about the truth or don’t think that objective truth is real. I do. I care very much. It is because I have personally settled the issue of truth. Jesus the Messiah says in the Injil, “I am the truth” (see the Gospel according to John 14:6). He is enough for me. I am not saying Christianity is the truth. I am saying that Jesus is the truth. The truth of God has been embodied in a person.

When I am with my Muslim friend I don’t need to know what true Islam is. I need to know my friend. I want to know what he believes. Does he believe that such acts of violence in the name of Islam are justified? Or does he repudiate them? That’s what matters to me.

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I care deeply for Muslims as a group and for my Muslim friends in particular. I am really grateful to God for the relationships he has given me and the friends I have been blessed by. You also know that I have not been afraid to call anti-Islamic statements evil. I am more than willing to call out the evil from Christians regarding Muslims. I believe this film is offensive and the opposite of love.

However, one thing I really haven’t done is also call out the evil that Muslims have done. I feel angry about the response to this movie. I understand why it is offensive. But I cannot and will not understand the need to destroy property and ultimately kill others because of it, especially those who had absolutely nothing to do with the making of the film. I do not hold the American government responsible for the evil of individual citizens anymore than I hold other governments responsible for the evil of their individual citizens.

I am angry because the destructive and deadly responses are evil. I am angry because these responses make non-Muslims living in the Middle East fearful. I have American friends who live all over the Middle East who are fearful that they may need to flee. I am angry because the radical murderous Muslims are giving all of my Muslim friends a bad name. I am angry because the work that I do in trying to promote understanding and peace between Muslims and Christians can so easily be derailed by the site of angry mobs. I am angry because all people are made in God’s image and we are not treating each other with the respect that this simple truth demands. God made us. And therefore he loves us. How is it that this truth doesn’t change everything about how we live with people different than us?!

I feel for Muslims who are appalled at what is taking place. Surely they bear a greater burden of responsibility over their community than I do, but what can they do? I don’t know. And even if my responsibility is not as great, I still am responsible for my reaction and for the circle of influence I have.

So I will pray. I will pray to the God of peace. I will pray for those who have sinned in making the movie and those who have sinned in their response to the movie. I will continue to show the way of love that Jesus Christ teaches us. His way is the way of the cross. He didn’t kill his enemies. He died for them. He didn’t end their lives. He laid down his own.

The way of the cross is the only way forward because it teaches us to humble ourselves and extend the forgiveness we have received to others. It teaches us to love our enemies and to seek their good. It teaches us to love mercy and not merely insist on justice.

I will pray and I will seek to daily die to myself and my selfish desires so that I can love others, even others who don’t love me.

It’s about the Heart

I was reading my Bible yesterday and was taken aback when I read these verses from the prophet Isaiah:

“He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations; 4 I also will choose harsh treatment for them and bring their fears upon them, because when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, they did not listen; but they did what was evil in my eyes and chose that in which I did not delight.” – Isaiah 66:3-4

God is describing various acts of worship and how he views these acts of worship. Slaughtering an ox is an act of worship in the Tawrat (the law), but to God when these people slaughtered oxen it was like they were killing men. Pigs are just as unclean in Judaism as they are in Islam. Imagine someone coming to the temple to worship God and then offering pig’s blood as a sacrificial gift. Blasphemous! And yet their grain offerings were equivalent to this.

What was the problem here? The problem was not that they were failing to offer acts of worship. The problem was their hearts. Even though they “obeyed” God by “worshiping” him, they had actually chosen their own sinful ways and delighted in their sinful abominations. Theirs hearts were far from God. As the Messiah said in the Injil (he was quoting Isaiah!), “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me'” (Gospel according to Mark 7:6).

I think this is true today more often than we realize. Look at these pictures:

How many of the people here are only performing acts of worship while their hearts are elsewhere? How many are simply going through the motions?

Perhaps we should come closer to home and examine our own hearts. How often is your worship mingled with unholy thoughts? How often are you going through the motions while your heart is full of anger? or full of lust? or full of greed? or full of discontent? or . . .?

When we come before the Holy Creator of the universe, we ought not be so presumptuous to think that he won’t mind when our actions say he is great, but our hearts and minds reveal the opposite.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 321 other followers