Nabeel Qureshi grew up in a Muslim home, but came to faith in Christ after a search for meaning and truth. He tells his conversion story in a new book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity. I had the chance to interview Nabeel today for my weekly Leadership Journal blog. This is one of the questions I asked him:
Posts Tagged ‘faith’
- Category: Leadership, Life, Politics and Culture
- 33766 CommentsJesus+and+the+Digital+Pharisees2013-10-30+05%3A00%3A20Daniel+Darlinghttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.danieldarling.com%2F%3Fp%3D3376
It’s kind of ridiculous to ask, “What if Jesus were on Twitter?” But indulge me for a second, anyways. I’ve noticed something about our generation’s engagement online and with those we consider “Christian celebrities” – famous pastors or church leaders who have big platforms. There’s a tendency among those of us who blog, tweet, write, post, instagram, etc toward a subtle kind of Phariseeism. Our generation prides itself on not being legalistic, of casting off the sort of religious, rule-making paradigm we didn’t quite like about our parent’s version of church. But in our zeal to not be like those we think are bad representations of Christianity, we’ve adopted a legalism of a different sort.
In Luke 18, Jesus shares a haunting parable about who is justified in the eyes of God. I’m struck by a few things in this passage. First, Luke gives us a vague description of the audience. The NIV puts it like this: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else.” I”m guessing everyone in the audience thought that they were not in this self-righteous group. It was everyone else who needed to work on their pride.
Jesus then sets up a story of two people going to the temple to pray, a common occurrence in that culture. You first have the religious person, the spiritual one, who enters a time of prayer with pride. He wants to be seen as being prayerful and utters a public declaration, “I thank God I’m not like . . . . .” The people he names are people held in contempt by the culture, people who are “safe” to mock for their sin. Easy targets of ridicule and scorn. These are the people we might mock on Twitter and seek to distance ourselves from with heated denunciations or humorous take-downs. You can even envision the hashtags from this Pharisee’s prayer: #robber #evildoer #adulterer. Then the Pharisee, wanting to squeeze out every bit of public praise, narrows his focus to “and even this guy, the tax collector.” Here he is calling out the other man to enter the temple to pray, the guy with the worst reputation in the community, the easy target for manufactured outrage and public scorn. You can even envision this in a tweet, “So glad I”m not like @taxcollector who preys on the poor and betrays his own people.”
But Jesus, poking holes in the self-righteousness of the Pharisee, turns the narrative focus on the tax collector, who enters the temple, head down, full of remorse. Unlike the Pharisee he has no illusions of his own righteousness. He’s overcome with guilt and sorrow for his sin. He knows he doesn’t deserve anything from God but punishment and so cries out in mercy, even beats his breast.
This man, Jesus said, walked out more justified than the Pharisee. Why? Because it wasn’t others’ sin that so gripped his heart and soul, it was his own.
Now most of us would hear a story like that and shout “amen!” because we don’t think we’re the first guy, the self-righteous Pharisee. Those are the people with all the funky religious rules and weird clothes. Those are the fundamentalists of another generation or the obnoxious guy on Facebook who doesn’t celebrate Halloween or the celebrity pastor who keeps saying dumb things.
But I think Jesus would beg to differ. Remember he addressed this parable to “some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else.” That cuts both ways. What’s more, if the tax collector in Jesus’ day was the easy target, the hated person in the culture, the one that reasonable, middle-of-the-road, kinda spiritual people are free to mock, then maybe it’s us who are the Pharisees.
Jesus words to the Pharisees of his day and to the Pharisees of our day is simple: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” (Luke 18:14). Empty, vacuous declarations of self-righteousness bounce off the ceiling. But desperate, humble cries for mercy and grace reach the throne room of Heaven.
Today, social media is our “public temple” in a way. It’s where we declare who we are and what we stand for, for better or for worse. And I’m afraid we’re so quick to make sure everyone knows that we’re “not like that other guy who keeps getting it wrong.” You might substitute “obnoxious celebrity pastor” or “outrageous Hollywood entertainer” or “corrupt congressman” for tax collector. Our generation of Christians seems too eager to “not be like those other kind of Christians.” We all think we are among the most reasonable people we know.
In our lurching attempts to not be Pharisees, we become Pharisees of a different stripe. But Jesus’ words to the self-justified should haunt us and then drive us to our knees in humility and cries for mercy. These may not be the stylish prayers of the digital world. But they are the prayers Jesus seems to answer.
- Category: FAITH Series
- 33621 CommentDon%27t+Offend+One%2C+Don%27t+Despise+One%2C+Don%27t+Lose+One2013-10-18+16%3A14%3A55Daniel+Darlinghttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.danieldarling.com%2F%3Fp%3D3362
Today for Leadership Journal I speak with Larry Fowler, the executive director of global networking for Awana and Kidzmatter. I’m a huge fan of Awana, having grown up in it and now seeing my children through it. It’s a powerful ministry that helps ground the truth of Scripture into the hearts of children.
Today I talked with Larry about children’s ministry.
Your newest book talks about seven principles of effective children’s ministry, and they are all based on Scripture. So give me an example—what would change if we used Scripture as the designer?
If we did children’s ministry according to Scripture, then parents would be primarily responsible for their child’s spiritual growth, and we would assist them, not the other way around. Parental spiritual leadership is pretty much on everyone’s radar right now. A concept that ministry leaders aren’t thinking about is what I call the significant “one”. Jesus, in Matthew 18, repeats the word “one” in this passage about children: don’t offend one, don’t despise one, and don’t lose one. Individuals were always important to Jesus, and if we are not careful, we can minister to groups of children and think we are doing okay, when in fact we are not.If every single child is significant, and we are concerned that we don’t offend or despise or lose one, then our registration and record-keeping processes will not only be used to see who comes but are used as tools to follow up with those who stop coming. Our structure will provide opportunities for our teachers and leaders to develop deep relationships with children (they come for the fun, but they stay because of a relationship). And we will train our volunteers to have a shepherd’s mindset toward every child they minister to.
- Category: The Lord's Prayer
- 32931 CommentThe+Lord%27s+Prayer+and+the+Self-Made+Man2013-08-21+05%3A00%3A25Daniel+Darlinghttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.danieldarling.com%2F%3Fp%3D3293
In America, we pride ourselves on our rugged independence. We’re a self-made people. There is much good in this kind of pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps way of life. Hard work and ingenuity are hard-wired into the Creation mandate by a God who gave man the gift of work in the garden and who commanded him to “subdue” the earth. When man works hard with his hands and his mind, when he takes the raw materials God has given him and makes something, he images God. God creates. And God created special creatures to create.
But man is not self-made in any way. Man begins with the earth’s substance that God provides. Man is born into a world not of his choosing, a time and place ordained by a sovereign God. The social structures, educational opportunities, parentage, even the obstacles you overcome on your rags-to-riches journey–these were all ordered by a God. You did not conceive yourself nor build the world into which you were created.
This reality–acknowledging our dependence on God even as we work hard and advance–seems important to Jesus. When offering the disciples a theological template for prayer, he used the words, “Give us this day our daily bread.” That phrase, so oft-repeated in the 2,000 years since they first came off Jesus’ lips, are at the heart of what it means to live by faith.
Yes, we work hard. We toil. We demonstrate integrity. We move against obstacles. But in all of our activity, we are not our own providers. We are not our own creators. We are not our own gods. We need daily bread to be given to us.
We are dependent on God. This is why prayer, while simple, is such a revolutionary act. To bow the knee and request something from God, something as simple as bread, acknowledges that He is God and that you are not. It reminds that there is a King, a Sovereign, a Lord of all. It reminds us of our humanity, our dependence, our gratitude for the Giver of all things.
We pray before our meals, not because if we don’t, we’ll choke on the steak or that somehow the calories in the casserole will magically disappear. We don’t pray for protection from poisoning or out of fear that if we forget, God will strike us.
We pray before meals as a simple act of faith and a bold declaration that there is a King who provides for His people. We pray before meals as an act of humility, recognizing that for all of our effort, the food only got to the table, primarily, because God in His Fatherly goodness, willed it to be there.
So Americans who work hard and pay their bills and put food on the table are best served by recognizing that there is really no such thing as a self-made man or woman. We’re all under the mercy and care of the only One who can make something out of nothing.
- Category: 5 Things, iFaith
- 31735 Comments5+People+We+Should+Pray+For+Even+Though+We+Don%27t+Want+To2013-06-12+05%3A00%3A56Daniel+Darlinghttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.danieldarling.com%2F%3Fp%3D3173
Let’s be honest. There are certain types of people we are conditioned, by our culture, to not like. These are the people that nobody is going to give us credit for liking, the people we tend to distance ourselves from. For good reason. And yet, these are the sinners Christ most likely would have sought out to save, the people we should, at the very least, pray for. So here is a list of 5 People We Should Pray For Even Though We Don’t Want To:
1) Politicians (and really anyone in a position of power). Have politicians ever held a lower standing the eyes of the American public than they do now? There are whole cottage industries (talk show hosts, pundits, some columnists) who generate millions of dollars essentially mocking and criticizing politicians. Nobody will think you are cool for praying for a politician. Everybody will laugh if you criticize one and/or post some hilarious meme about one on Facebook. And yet there is this sneaky little prayer in the Bible that says this:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2, ESV)
Yeah, that’s a tough verse. Praying for politicians (and not just in the snarky Psalm 19:8 way) is counter-cultural. But here’s a reason we can and should pray for our government leaders, local and national: we believe that authority is granted by God. Psalm 75:6 says that power doesn’t come from east or west, but from God. Romans 13 reminds us that the “powers that be” are ordained of God. So we can pray for our leaders, not only out of obedience to the Scripture, but out of a deep and abiding trust in Christ as the ultimate sovereign authority. And here’s a tip. Let’s pray for these politicians, not always for the policies we’d like to see implemented, but in a personal way. Let’s pray for their families. Let’s pray for their spiritual lives. Let’s pray for their blessing (yes, you heard me right).
2) People who we think poorly represent the Christian faith. There is a tendency among evangelicals to distance ourselves from Christians we think poorly represent the Christian faith. I do this. I could give you a list of people whose public displays of Christianity make me want to stand and shout, “But most Christians aren’t like that. We’re different. Don’t look at them.” You have a list like this, don’t you? Isn’t this pride? Do we ever consider that perhaps its me–yes me–who might be the poor display of Christian witness?
I’m humbled by Jesus’ words to Peter in Luke 22:32, where he essentially said, “I’m praying for you, that your faith doesn’t fail. Satan wants to sift you as wheat” (my paraphrase). Peter was the Christ-follower who embarrassed everyone by his public displays. He’s the guy who panicked and fell beneath the waves on the Sea of Galilee He’s the guy who blurted out about the tabernacles during the miracle of transfiguration. He’s the guy who cut off the soldier’s ear in the garden. He’s the guy who denied Jesus three times. Yeah, I’m guessing pre-Pentecost Peter is probably the guy who exemplifies, “Christian I don’t want to be like.”
And yet Jesus said to Peter, patiently, “I’m praying for you.” I’m deeply convicted by this. Rather than mocking those Christians who I don’t think “do it right” so I can make myself look better, I ought to . . . pray for them. Here’s what happens when we do this: suddenly we see the humanity in people we’re ashamed of. Suddenly we see our own clumsy attempts to represent Christ. Suddenly we accept them as brothers and sisters rather than enemies. This is a hard discipline, but like Jesus, we should pray for the Peters in our life.
3) People who openly mock the Christian faith. When I think of people who openly mock the faith, I think of the secularists, I think the late-night comedians who make sport of the gospel. I think of the pop culture icons who detest Jesus. Bill Mahr, Jon Stewart, Richard Dawkins. The knee-jerk reaction to mockers is to mock back. To come up with an equally witty response. To create a Facebook page with a bold Christian statement and have 10,000 people like it to make us feel better. But maybe, maybe, we should simply pray for them. I think of Jesus’ attitude on the cross toward the mockers. He said “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). What should we pray for them? For the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts to find salvation in Christ. Think of Saul of Tarsus. He had heard the sermons and mocked them. He held the coats of those stoning Stephen, the first martyr. He actively pursued Christians to put them in jail and even to their deaths. And yet God radically pursued Paul on the road to Damascus and he became the Apostle Paul. Maybe today’s mocker is tomorrow’s evangelist. Have we considered that? So let’s pray for those who mock the Christian faith. By doing so, we not only avoid the sin of bitterness in our own hearts, but we demonstrate that God’s sovereignty and power is not weakened by the open hostility of those who oppose Him.
4) Highly critical bloggers and commentors. If you want to get a glimpse of the depravity of our fallen world, scroll down on a news article and read through the comments. Even many Christian blogs and news sites attract vile responses, some even by professing followers of Jesus. The Internet has opened the floodgates for trolls and for angry, self-justified people. But have you considered that perhaps those who communicate ungracefully may be doing it from a place of insecurity, of brokeness, of a deep hunger for what only God can provide? I don’t know what motivates the hostility all the time, but I do know that these are people God wants to rescue from themselves. If God could cause revival among the ruthless Ninevites, God could do a work among those who use the Internet for vile purposes. We should pray that God enraptures their soul with the good news of the gospel. We should pray that we don’t fall into their trap of bitterness and vulgarity.
5) That person who has deeply wounded you. Jesus said to pray for those who “mistreat you.” I don’t think forgiveness means you have to endure injustice or abuse. I don’t think being a Christian means being a doormat over which evil people can walk all over you. But I do believe that, at the most basic level, we should pray for those who deeply wound us. Reconciliation is not always possible, but forgiveness–the letting go of the bitterness from our hearts–is possible as we immerse ourselves in the forgiveness Christ offers to us in his atoning death and resurrection. We can find peace and joy, we don’t have to nurse our deep grudges. I think we begin this process in prayer, on our knees, in honesty before God. We pour out the hurts and wounds we’ve endured and ask the Lord to help us forgive and to work in the hearts of those who did the wounding. The person who committed the injustice against you was created by God in His image. His soul matters to God as much as your soul. And so we pray for those who hurt us.
- Category: Church Life, Culture, Life, Preaching
- 2892No CommentsIf+There+is+No+Sin%2C+There+is+No+Grace2013-02-05+05%3A00%3A27Daniel+Darlinghttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.danieldarling.com%2F%3Fp%3D2892
Be of sin, the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure - Augustus Toplady
There is a hesitance, actually more like a firm resistance, to calling any behavior, “sin.” When the issue of sexual lifestyles are discussed, even evangelicals are wary of labeling any one behavior as sin. It’s the word we want to run far, far way from. Nobody sins anymore. They make mistakes. They were born that way. They are misunderstood.
The Bible, however, has clear categories. And some things are sin. Sexual license is sin. Murder is sin. Libel is sin. Gossip is sin. Furthermore, the Bible doesn’t just say that humans commit sin, but that humans are actually, by nature, sinners. That is they aren’t naturally good people who sometimes fall off the wagon and sin. We are sinners by nature.
But what about grace? Isn’t the church supposed to be about spreading the good news that God has accepted sinners by grace? Isn’t the message of the church that God’s grace covers even the vilest of sins? Yes, it is. And this is a message we should shout from the rooftops. It should be the core of what we evangelicals do and say.
Here’s the rub. If you stop acknowledging that some choices are sinful, you stop needing that wonderful thing called grace. In other words, if everything is okay, is just a different lifestyle, but not actually a gross violation of the righteousness of God, then why would you need grace? You wouldn’t, because nobody is doing anything wrong.
This is why the Church must talk about sin and about grace. At times, followers of Jesus have talked more about sin, as if God was violently angry at sinners and they have no hope. As if we were gleeful, like the Pharisees, to catch someone abusing God’s standard. This is the wrong message and denies the gospel.
And yet, we seem to be in a moment in the church when we want to talk about grace in a way that acts like sin is no big deal. Let’s not talk about sin, after all we’re suppose to be the people of grace. Wait a minute, though. If there is no sin, there is no need for grace.
The point I’m making here is this: Unless I realize I’m a sinner deserving of God’s just wrath against sin, I cannot experience the richness and fullness of His grace. If I deny my sin, I shut the door on grace. This was Jesus’ message to the woman at the well. Yes, you are a woman who is living in sin. Yes, you are just the kind of person I came to save.
We have to acknowledge both realities. This is why talk of the word, “sin” should not frighten us who believe in the gospel. Because it was not mistakes or missteps or misunderstandings that Christ came to conquer and defeat. He came to defeat sin and sin’s awful child: death.
I’m not proud of my sin, but I’m glad to recognize that I’m a sinner. Because sinners are the only people eligible for Jesus’ unlimited grace.
- Category: FAITH Series, Leadership
- 27555 CommentsWhat+We+Really+Should+Be+Teaching+Our+Kids2012-11-27+05%3A00%3A27Daniel+Darlinghttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.danieldarling.com%2F%3Fp%3D2755
Last Thursday, during the Thanksgiving meal we hosted at our house, my son, Daniel Jr (age 4) had an epic meltdown over a superheros costume. My brother, Tim, was the recipient of much of this. After dealing with Daniel’s tantrum, we both went our way, sharing times with our family members, eating more pie, and watching football. About 30 minutes later, something wonderful happened. My son, Daniel voluntarily walked up to my brother, Tim and said, “Uncle Tim, I’m sorry for my attitude before. Will you forgive me?”
Nobody forced Daniel to do this. He just did it. For me, it was a proud moment as a father. Because it tells me that Daniel is learning one of most important lessons in life: How to apologize when you have wronged someone.
It seems to me that Christian parenting can often be so caught up in behavior modification that we forget to instill in our kids the real and important things they will need to live a healthy spiritual life. The tools for dealing with their own sin. Because, brace yourrself parents, our kids will sin. They will sin today and they will sin for the rest of their lives. Hopefully they will come to faith in Christ and experience His sanctifying work so that they sin less. But as fallen creatures, they will sin.
Sadly, much of our parenting techniques miss this important point. We parent as if we can actually iron out sin, as if we could just stumble onto the right system so that we’ll produce perfect little angels. In doing this, we rob our children of the most important truths they will need to succeed: the reality of the gospel.
You see, it is good that we have rules and laws in our homes. After all the law was originally given by God as an act of grace toward his children. And good parents demonstrate their love for their own children by having laws. Not running in the street is a pretty good law that protects their welfare.
However, if we are only about law and talk and model and enforce nothing of the gospel, we are crippling our children. We are giving them no mechanism for dealing with the inevitability of their own sin. I think much of this is the due to the tragic misapplication of Proverbs 22:6 (Train up a child in the way he should go . . . ) which is a proverb of wisdom, not a promise of perfection for kids.
We must, as parents, embed the gospel in our parenting. We must first evangelize them so they come to Jesus in repentance and faith. Then, we must teach them to apply the gospel in their lives: the vital cycle of repentance and forgiveness. In other words, we must teach them to live life as it really is, not as we often wish it would be.
We all know the dangers of a lawless, boundary-less household. But we seldom think about the impact on kids of a childhood that sees no grace. Parenting simply fixated on behavior modification–with no gospel-based mechanism for dealing with sin, failure, and weakness–has two equally devastating effects. Kids either reject the legalism of the law and live a miserable life with no boundaries or they embrace a lethal mixture of Phariseeism and perfectionism, holding themselves to an impossible standard and thumbing their nose at anyone who doesn’t live up to their standard.In both cases, you have children who are shocked by their ability to sin and have no idea where to go with it.
The point is this. We are not simply training our kids to be good kids. We are modeling for them the relationship God has with us. We’re introducing them to Christ, who is their sin-bearer, the champion has defeated sin and death, and their only way of victory over sin.
A parenting model that focuses only on right behaviors, at the expense of the gospel, is a parenting model that treats every offense as Armageddon, that is horrified and surprised when their little angels commit sin. It’s a parenting model that ruins parents with dangerous introspection (what did I do wrong). It’s a parenting model based on fear, not faith.
But, a parenting model that features a mix of grace and law looks much different. It applies and enforces God’s law in the home, but introduces the concepts of grace, repentance, and sanctification. And what it celebrates is not necessarily little Johnny’s ability to not throw tantrums, but little Johnny’s voluntary expressions of remorse and repentance afterword.
- Category: REAL
- 2666No CommentsChocolate+Faith2012-09-26+15%3A36%3A13Daniel+Darlinghttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.danieldarling.com%2F%3Fp%3D2666
Within the church of the living God, we must become excited about the gospel. That’s how we pass on our heritage
– D.A. Carson
If you want to impress the woman you love and happening to be traveling through the northwest suburbs of Chicago, my advice to you is to spend a significant amount of time in the quaint village of Long Grove and its famous Confectionary. This niche candy shop is a must-stop for those who live and visit the Midwest. I know because my wife considers chocolate as important as oxygen and I consider my wife as important to me as breathing. Those two factors have kept me visiting and browsing the Confectionary’s many aisles of cocoa creations.
Interestingly, it wasn’t my wife’s longings that first acquainted me with this tiny slice of chocolate heaven. When I was around six years old, my father, a licensed plumber, was contracted to work at the Long Grove Confectionary as part of the team that built and installed the chocolate pipelines. I remember him coming home every day with large boxes filled with “bricks” of chocolate. We had a supply of chocolate in the house that looked like it would last until Lord returned. Or at least until the next church potluck.
Dad regaled us with stories of working at the plant. I found most interesting the intricate work involved in building a complex chocolate-making system. Dad and his crew created the chocolate channels with threaded steel. When they were finished, however, they didn’t flush the system with the usual mix of water and bleach. Instead, they pumped piping hot cocoa through the lines. The highly secretive chocolate recipe was so precisely engineered that any water that hung up in the lines could alter the formula. They would rather waste several batches of chocolate than risk diluting their recipe.
This is a story I think of often when I contemplate the difficult task of passing the gift of faith from my generation to the next. I wonder if we stop long enough to consider the purity of the faith send through the parenting pipeline. Are there any impurities that might dilute or even pollute the Bible’s central message?
What Do We Believe Anyways?
Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” is one of my guilty entertainment pleasures. It’s interesting to see how people answer seemingly easy questions about life and history and current events. Perhaps it is a way to feel better about myself, because surely I could ace such an easy quiz.
But I wonder what we’d hear if we “Jaywalked” the average person on the street and asked the simple question, “What is Christianity really about?” Perhaps they’d say something like, “Christianity is about being good.” Or “Christianity is a set of moral codes.” Or “Christianity is about politics.”
Some of this can be chalked up to our culture’s warped sense of our faith or perhaps a skewed portrayal of Christians by the media. But I wonder if much of the blame can be laid to rest on the Christian community itself. Perhaps we’ve not been as clear about defining our faith. What is the big story of the Bible?
But even more important than articulating our faith in the broader culture is how we articulate our faith to ourselves, to the generation that now sits at our feet, the children we teach who will one day form the pillars of our culture.
What is it that we are passing down to our children? I wonder if we have cluttered up the gospel’s central message with good, but not ultimate things, such as our methodologies, our systems, our denominations.
And perhaps we don’t even know we’re doing this. I think of the steaming hot mix of chocolate coursing through the steel pipes at the Long Grove Confectionary.
Imagine, for a moment, if the proprietors of this chocolate shop weren’t as rigid in their guarding of the recipe. they pushed bleach and water instead of chocolate through those new pipes? What if they were careless about what they sent on as finished product, thinking, a little water or pipe residue won’t be noticed.What if
I’m guessing that little confectionary would cease to be one of the most visited places in the Chicagoland area. Retailers would probably stop filling their shelves with Long Grove creations. And the chocolate factory would probably close its doors.
Since chocolate is the lifeblood of their business, they guard the formula with critical care. And so it should be with the faith we stream from one generation to another. We have the recipe for life eternal—the gospel message. Jesus was both God and man who came to earth in love, bore the wrath of a holy God, rose from the dead and now offers new life.
It’s a simple message with profound implications. But for some reason, we think we have to clutter it up with good, but not ultimate, things. And we wonder why the next generation tastes what we’re offering and pitches it. We think they’re rejecting the gospel, but it could be that they’re simply rejecting the impurities we’ve attached to it.
Excerpted with permission from Real, Owning Your Christian Faith