Wait (Psalm 130)

Posted: 4 April 2014 in Ramblings


1Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
2O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

How many times have I held this passage close? How many times in the last decade have I quietly cried out to God, pleading that the wait be over? Every time the dawn was approaching; the dawn that I thought would bring good news to my ears, there was silence. Seemingly an answer of “no.” Or maybe just “not yet” ? My first, southern-raised response is “what have I done to cause you, O God, to turn away?” Yet, my training, Scripture and the ever present Holy Spirit remind me that He has not forsaken me. He only asks me to wait. Longer.

3If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

I am a worm. An undeserving sinner who has struggled with anger and angst regarding those who seemingly want only to thwart the path which was laid out before me what seems now so long ago. Thanks be to God, I have been given the strength to overcome those sins of anger, yet there are other sins which just won’t go away. If it were up to me….I would surely die a miserable death…over and over and over again. Yet, just as I have forgiven the sins which have been [unwittingly?] committed against me, my sins have been forgiven me by my Lord Jesus Christ. I know this because that voice which speaks from the Word reassures me. He reassures me not only of the forgiveness of my sins, but that my wait is almost over. Almost.

5I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

As a military man, I know what it feels like to wait for the morning. During that wait, the watchman quietly thinks of events of the previous day and night. And he anticipates the future in the pre-dawn haze. Think on your life for a moment. Think of those events which mark what has made you who you are. Especially those which you were required to wait for. Even those events that would have the length of the wait determined by others. You knew what the result was going to be not by intellectual thought, not by educated reasoning and not because science explained when the wait would be over. You just knew. And you anticipated the end of the wait so much that you related every thought to what would happen after the wait was over. Yet…you were still waiting for the dawn. As do I.

7O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
8And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.

Israel of old were the people of God. Just like each and every congregation of the Church are exactly that. God’s people. Many struggle with things which cause them to wait. Sometimes it’s internal finances. Sometimes administrative actions of their local leaders. Sometimes it is the decisions of people whom they don’t even know. Still …. they wait. During this wait their anticipation, their collective anger and angst can become unbearable. Yet, I would suggest they hold these words of the psalmist close. Pray on them at every opportunity. The love which God has for you is immeasurable. His promised redemption, o congregation, is just over the horizon. He has and will continue to pronounce your absolution at every dawn. Not only has He redeemed you from your iniquities with the blood of the Lamb, He has also given you an ever present Shepherd. Eventually…soon…the one whom He has called into your midst as His under shepherd will be given the opportunity to respond. Your wait will be over. And so will mine. Thanks be to God the Father, who with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit hear our cries for mercy…and answers them.

In Jesus most Holy Name.
Amen +


God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
although the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
[Psalm 46:1-3, 8-11 ESV]

As particularly unfavorable news comes from family, our doctors or from those who represent us in certain matters, our situation seems to darken.  We recognize that in our human state, we are helpless regardless of the situation.

As we look into that dark valley of Psalm 23, the valley spoke of seems much more concrete.  The writer of Psalm 46; however, points out who can help us now.  God.  “God is our refuge and strength.”  Any negative experience inflicted on us now is a glimpse ahead to the calamity that will come at the end of the world.  The effects of sin are so great in this world.  Those effects remind us that the end is coming although when we do not know.  It is a warning to us not to put our complete trust in anyone except God Himself.

God says to His people, “Do not fear.”  Though  the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the depths of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, and the mountains quake – as the medical news isn’t good, as evil manifests down upon us…the Lord continues to say to us,

Be Still !

And know that I am God.”

Evil may have its little day, but God has met it at the Cross, where our Savior Jesus Christ confronted the enemy…and defeated him.  Evil forces in our world have met their defeat.  They threaten and try to terrify us, but God has conquered them and His kingdom has come and will remain forever.  What Are We to Do ?
Trust in God.  Do not give in to fear.  Keep up our daily routines.  Devote ourselves to Scripture, to prayer and to joining together in worship  Remember our leaders and pray for them.  Reach out to the suffering and to those who mourn.  Pray for those who are experiencing our dark valley and even those who have valleys of their own.  Ask the Lord to enable His Church to speak the comforting Word of peace in Christ Jesus, so that in the midst of the suffering in the world, we may know that Jesus is the true source of peace in all trials and dangers.
Our world is not a safe place.  Yet, God would have us trust in Him to keep us safe for this He will do.

+ in nomine jesu +


Image  —  Posted: 11 March 2014 in Ramblings

God Meant it for Good

Posted: 20 October 2013 in Ramblings

Coat-ManyColorsSitting here watching a wonderful teaching video by Rev. Ernie Lassman (Messiah-Seattle, WA). Pastor Lassman is giving a correct, yet paraphrased story of Joseph as a means to illustrate the Genesis 50:20 textual quote of Joseph to his brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

Tears in my eyes as I hear this lesson as parallel to my situation as well as that of my ordained brothers’ who are awaiting their return into a parish call. My goal of entering into the OHM was not my idea or any others’ who presently walk this planet, but rather that of the One whom I have been called to follow. St Paul tells me in Romans 5:3-5: “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Therefore, I struggle to live by St Paul’s words of Colossians 4:2-4: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”

I pray that one day soon, those who lord it over decisions I am not privy to would see themselves as they read the words of our Savior recorded in Mark 10:42: “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them…” as well as Father Luther’s words in Part III-Article X of the Smalcald Articles. Perhaps they too might be brought to tears and see their proper role of ‘enabling’ those of us who seek only the Holy Will of the One whom has called us all into His Grace and service.

Lord, have mercy. Amen

NOTE: Oddly, I  posted this to  FB on 20 October before I considered posting it here.  Unfortunately, I  have not  been able to post any of this year’s sermons, perhaps that will change in the  not  too distant future.  God’s peace to everyone.

In the Correct Order?
^ Audio/Slideshow Link Above ^

23 Oct 2011

Grace, Mercy, Peace – text from Holy Spirit – Apostle Matthew [22:34-46 (37-40 spec.)]

   I.            Intro

In 1537, while preaching on today’s text, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther asked:

What, then, are we to do when the Law constantly demands and drives us on, and, after all, we cannot keep it?  For my conscience is ever judging me (I tell myself):  Because I should love God with all my heart and my neighbor as myself, and, after all, I cannot do so, I must be damned; and God says yes and confirms the judgment.  Who will help me in this predicament?  Says the Law:  I know of no way to help you.  The Law simply desires and requires you to be obedient.  (WLS#2362 preached by ML 30 Sept 1537 against Agricola & antinomians)

Father Luther was preaching against the attitudes of his day that were prevalent among many of the non-Lutheran reformers of his day, those which he called ‘antinomians’.  To that matter, non-Lutheran protestants of today and sadly some who call themselves Lutheran, believe that because of our being saved by faith alone, there is no need to be obedient to any religious code…or law…INCLUDING that which God has given His children in the Old Testament.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had just the opposite problem.  They believed and taught that strict adherence to the Law was all they NEEDED to do to obtain God’s favor. This can be understood from our Gospel lesson today…

II.            The Law

(Matthew 22, ESV) 34 But when the Pharisees heard that [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

As I stated, the Pharisees knew that, because they followed ALL of the Law, they were not really concerned with how Jesus answer would affect them.  No – they were rather prideful of how they followed the Torah and rabbinical law.  They knew in their hearts that anything Jesus could say would not convict them.

The Pharisees were very much like many self-professed Christian believers of today.  They knew in their self-proclaimed intellect that God is the Creator of all things and they loved Him so much they lived according to the Commandments (1st Commandment).  They attended worship each weekend (2nd Commandment).  They had always respected the elders of their family (4th Commandment).  They had never stolen, murdered or committed adultery (5th, 6th & 7th Commandments).  They had never lied about their neighbor nor did they want anything from their neighbors’ possessions (8th, 9th, 10th Commandments). As a matter of fact their neighbors weren’t as well off as they were, so why WOULD they want anything of theirs? (4’)

So they sent one of their best Law interpreters…a lawyer, to trip Jesus up with a very provocative question.  And how did our Lord answer him?  We read in…

(Matthew 22:37-40, ESV)  “And [Jesus] said to [the Lawyer],‘You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

Now, at first glance, we may not recognize our Lord’s restatement of Deuteronomy 6:5 nor the implication that I believe God had when these words were recorded, not only by Moses, but by Matthew and Luke.  For God underlines where the primary place is for this love in Deuteronomy 6:6:  “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (emp. added)

The Pharisees of Jesus day….the non-Lutheran church reformers of Brother Martin’s day AND many Christian believers today all suffer from the very same problem.  It is common to attempt to use one’s intellect to determine if we are pleasing God.  To rationalize how well we are following the Law.  Perhaps to justify, to ourselves and others, that even what MIGHT be seen as a sin is really spiritual discernment and love.

The Pharisees thought they would send a scholar, one who ‘thought he knew’ what God’s Law said.  They would do this, in their minds, to protect God’s people from a man with delusions of grandeur.  After all, in their own minds, the Pharisees were intellectually superior to this…this…carpenter’s son from Galilee.  And they had followed ‘to the letter’ the Law as given to Moses.

Today, there are many who think that they know how to please God.  Thus they will come up with new a better ways to prove so.  If they give more time and talent, if they spend more time at church, if they tell the public how good they are, if they vastly expand the roles of their churches, then…THEN God will truly be pleased with them.  AND if God is pleased with them…their devotion to Christ will be recognized by not only those around them, but by GOD Himself.  Yet, [NOTABLE PAUSE] God tells us through Moses, through Luke and through Matthew here that, our minds are the last place we should be concerned with loving Him.

First, we should love our God “with all our hearts”…..”and with all our souls.”  But, WAIT!  If we love Him first THERE, how will anyone ELSE know of our devotion!?

[PAUSE] That, brothers and sisters in Christ, is EXACTLY the point!  It does not matter what others know or see.  It most assuredly matters what our Father in Heaven sees when He looks upon us.  Unfortunately, we know from Scripture that, if left to our OWN intellect and our OWN methods, when God looks upon us He sees our poor, miserable, sinful selves.  He sees the heart that would spend time at the lake rather than attend worship.   He sees the heart that is angry and spiteful when someone cuts it off in traffic.  He sees the anger and verbal abuse which is cast at our government leaders.  He sees the financial, property and other lusts which are felt when watching the successes of neighbors. Yes, although our neighbors may not ‘know’ of our inabilities to follow God’s Law…our Father in Heaven most assuredly knows.  And He knows our inability to intellectually explain why we don’t follow His Law for He tells us through St Paul in Romans 7:(:15-21 ESV)

15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.[ 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.] 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. [For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.] 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.[ 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

III.            The Gospel

Yes, our Heavenly Father knows all too well of our physical and mental failings.  He is fully aware of our inability to keep His Law in our own actions, on our own accord.  Thus, He sent His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Jesus was born, by the power of the Holy Spirit, of the Virgin Mary.  He was made Man.  Jesus was wholly Man and wholly God.  He came to teach us of the Father’s love for us.  Yet, unlike you and me, Jesus could physically demonstrate His Love.  Not only His Love for His Father in Heaven, but His Love for you and me.  Jesus did this with clear demonstration through His betrayal, through the punishment which Man placed upon Him during His trial before Pilot and…Jesus demonstrated His love for you and me by giving up His very Body and Blood on the Cross of Calvary.  He was nailed to that cross because of your sins and mine, because we CAN NOT, on our accord, do anything which is pleasing to God.  ONLY due to the power of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts, are we found pleasing to God.  ONLY due to the power of the Holy Spirit calling out to Him is the Father able to hear and heed our prayers.  ONLY due to the faith granted us by the Holy Spirit can you and I be called “the children of God”.  And that we are….Children of the Most High God.

IV.            Conclusion

So…when the time is right, when all is accomplished in God’s eyes, Jesus will come again.  Jesus will come and all will look to Him and know in their hearts, their souls and their minds that Jesus is Lord.  Those who have attempted to intellectually explain their faith may look upon Him in absolute fear and horror, for it will be clear to THEM at that moment that their hearts had not been first in loving God.  However, for you and me, as well as for all the saints gone before, WE will look upon our descending Lord with thankfulness and faith.  You and I will, in our hearts, in our souls and in our minds know that we will join with all the saints, with all the angels and archangels of Heaven giving all the glory to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  Giving all praise and honor to our Triune God while living in His peace and confidence for ever.

+ in nomino jesu +

May the Peace which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen

[Audio to Come]

Funeral – 20 June 2011
For Luella of Emmaus, FTW

GMP from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ – to the family and friends of Luella.

And there shall be a unique [Hebrew=“one”] day, which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. (Zechariah 4:7)

Notable milestones in life in this world always seems to be defined as experienced of darkness.

David – Valley of the Shadow of Death
Daniel – darkness of the lions’ den
Even our Lord Jesus Christ, as He gave His very body and blood as payment for our sins, as he hung on the Cross – “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

For those of us drawn by the Holy Spirit into faith, there are cloudy days,
Those times when we anger our parents as children, or our spouse as adults
Those times when we struggle with job loss, failing health, loss of a friend or family member,

we struggle as we become afraid of what might happen if the darkness and gloom never leave
what will we do with what we see as a hole in our lives?
we think we will never see them again.

Then the Holy Spirit draws us into the Light.  Perhaps through the words of a caring friend or a mediation offered in a book we read or when we remember how our departed friend once spoke of a particular passage. Regardless of how the Spirit draws us, we find ourselves in The Light perpetual which is in the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and we find peace.

The difficulties are still there – they are not gone.  Yet as we walk in the Light of Christ we are given God’s Peace which allows us to deal with the challenges the evil one or our sinful world may throw at us.  Our doubts vanish as we hear the promises of our God.

Was true darkness ever upon Luella?
I am confident she had her difficulties. We all have them.

Perhaps during the time surrounding the passing of family members
Perhaps as her earthly vocation came to a close
Or when her waning abilities required that she leave her home
We can be sure that Luella had shadowed valleys in her life

Yet, we can be equally assured that in her earthly walk, Luella was ever in the Light.  And where does this assurance comes from? How do we know Luella had light around her?  The fact that she was a baptized child of God – that is how. In that baptism she heard the words,

You have received Christ who is the Light of the world. Live always in the light of Christ and be ever watchful for His coming that you may meet Him with joy and enter into the Marriage Fest in His Kingdom.”

During those times of gloom in her life, we can be confident that she heard the words of our Lord “I am with you to the very end of the age”.  We can now understand as she does the words of the prophet Zechariah, “There shall be one day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light.”  She has passed from the evening time of life into a new life – an eternal life with Christ.  An eternal life in eternal Light.  Not the blinding brilliance of the sun, not the dull shadowed light of the moon, but the Blessed Light of God’s Glory, His Joy, … His Peace.

We may sense a gloominess, a darkness, right now – as we mourn Luella’s passing from our midst.  Yet we can be confident that Luella is in the presence of God. And we can be equally confident that God is with us – He knows our sadness,  He speaks to us in the words of:

the Angel to the shepherds “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)
Lord to those on the mount – “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matt 10:31)
Lord to those who have little – “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
Lord as he Ascended to the Father – “I am with you until the very end of the age.

God our Father is with you – as He has been since the moment of your conception, God the Holy Spirit is with you – since the moment of your baptism and God the Son is with you until the very end of the age.

As we depart the services today, remember that Luella is resting in the blessed light of our God, remember that Jesus is a lamp unto your feet and a Light unto your path, remember that we will all, one day, join Luella in the New Creation where there will always be light.

In the Name of Jesus.  + Amen +

aEaster6  29 May 2011
Peace – B IN

GMP – Text from the Holy Spirit through the Apostle John in Chapter 14 of the Gospel which he penned.


In his writing the Small Catechism, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther begins the teaching of each of the commandments, “We should fear and love God so that…”  He also teaches that we remember our daily activities are an illustration of our fear and love of God.  This makes today’s Gospel text rather easy at first hearing, doesn’t it.

[I.  ]

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
v21a Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.

We demonstrate our love of God each day through our following His  commandments.  Right?  [PAUSE]

Why, we do our very best at not using God’s name in vain (II), we come to worship almost every week (III), we fondly remember our obedient relationship with our parents AND those placed in authority over us (IV), most of us have never *killed* anyone – much less murdered (V), we have been true to our marriage vows or to life-long celibacy (VI), we don’t permanently borrow (or ‘steal’) anything (VII), we *only* say good and uplifting things about people…including our government, much less lie about them(VIII) and finally, we never desire anything or anyone from anyone else’s household (IX X).  We do our very best indeed.

So, let’s go back to the First Commandment…Here Father Luther teaches that “We should fear love and….TRUST in God above all things.”  Trust – do we do that in ALL things?  Or do we try our very best to do things as WE see they should be done?  Do we rely on God for guiding us into employment, selecting civic leaders, raising our children or making financial decisions? It might be suggested that if we do not seek God’s desires for everything we do….if we do NOT pray over decisions in all facets of our life…if we do NOT spend time in Scripture learning His lessons there, then perhaps we have forsaken a gift from God.  A gift given to each baptized Christian,…a gift that our Lord promises us here:

[II.  The Promised  Παράκλητος (Parakletos)]

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

another Helper’ – ‘another’ since our Lord has been with them for sometime helping the disciples understand the Tor-áh and the prophets.  It should be recognized that the Greek word Παράκλητος translated here as ‘helper’ might be better understood as a ‘Counselor’ or ‘Advisor’ which are also appropriate English words for Παράκλητος.  You see, as our Lord points out about the world,…those who live in the World and not in the fear, love and trust God do not understand what it is to rely on God for guidance.  Many folks give themselves full credit for gaining good employment, appreciable wealth, plentiful & healthy harvests or maybe even being uplifted and educated in their worship.

Well, Scripture tells us that this is not the case.  In the words of St James [1:17]:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father..”

When we think it is our wisdom which has delivered for us, we need to again remember the words of James [3:15,17]:

15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. … 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits…

And from where does this ‘wisdom from above’ come from?  Our Counselor, not from the World, no.  Since our Lord tells us that the World “neither sees [the Spirit] nor knows him”.  And because of this blindness of the World, many are lost because they rely on the ways of the World…the teachings of the World…that the World knows best.

Yet as baptized children of the Most High God, you and I can take comfort.  Why?  Because our Lord Jesus Christ promised us that He would never leave us, that we would always have a Helper, a Counselor, an Advisor…a Παράκλητος.  It is the Holy Spirit who guides our decisions when we “fear, love….and TRUST” God above all things.  Since the moment of our baptism, the Παράκλητος lives in us.  The Counselor is with you, the Counselor is with me and we all know, in St Paul’s words from Galatians 3[:28] we “are all one …in Christ Jesus.

And we love our Lord.  Not perfectly, no…and we know this since we say those words in each Divine Service:  we “have not loved God with our whole hearts, we have not love our neighbors as ourselves”,  but…BUT thanks be to the work of the Παράκλητος, our counselor, the Holy Spirit, we also say that we “humbly repent of [these sins] and pray, Father, of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy innocent, bitter sufferings and death of your beloved Son, to be gracious and merciful to” us.

What then?  What follows?  The blessed words of God spoken by His blessed under-shepherd, the pastor, those words which are so sweet, those words we hear by…the work of our Παράκλητος :  that God “forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

We hear that our sins….are….forgiven!  And we can recall our Saviors words from today…

[III.  Paid For and Forgiven]

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 … you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. …

Jesus has not left us as orphans, but as adopted sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Sons and daughters whose sins are forgiven by God through the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ which was spilled out on the Cross for your sins … and mine.  And in His own words, Christ tells us in John 15[:13],

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

For this love He has demonstrated with His Blood, as well as for the blessings of breath, food and protection which He gives to us each day…. we love him, we “fear, love and trust” in Him.  And when we are quiet & listen, our Παράκλητος reminds of our Lord’s words….

21b And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

He manifests Himself to us…in the Sacrament of Baptism, in Absolution, in the hearing of Scripture, in the Sacrament of the Altar.  You and I can touch Him, you and I can hear His voice, you and I can feel His hand upon us, and we KNOW that He is with us  “until the very end of the age


Finally…in the end…when God has determined the time, you and I…and all the company of Heaven will join together as our Lord returns for the last time.  When every knee shall bow.  When, thanks be to God for the work of our Παράκλητος, you and I will hear those wonderful and blessed words…

Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21)

in nomine jesu


The Long and Winding Road

Posted: 16 May 2011 in Ramblings

How should Christians approach Islam?  This is an interesting question, perhaps the most poignant question of the 21st century.  With the new century beginning with possibly the single biggest event to be framed by the two religious groups, people have been looking for ways to  answer this question in such a way to curtail the violence which has been prevalent since the fourth century.  There are many facets to the issue and no true ‘easy’ answer.  Perhaps the best place to begin the topic is to ask what should the Christians do before approaching Islam?  That question can be answered with more succinct points such as:  First, Christians which choose to be involved in the ambassadorship must become very familiar with their own faith; second, they must take an academic approach to what Islam believes based on the Qur’an; third, they must take a painfully slow approach to open dialogue with those who call themselves Muslims.  Only after these starting points are fully developed and carried out should Christians attempt to approach those who follow Islam.  Relations with Muslims will only be harmed if Christianity makes a full-force, frontal attack to ‘convert’ those who have chosen to follow Muhammad.

The first step is absolutely necessary.  Christian laity typically has such a remedial understanding of the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God that they tend to be over simplistic or even rude to those who don’t understand.  The ‘kill them all and let God sort them out’ is inappropriate for approaching Muslims, but so is listening to some of today’s so called scholars when it comes to Christian-Muslim relations.  When people such as Jesuit Father Thomas Michel make comments such as “… what religion is about … is the way we relate to God… what does God want and how does God want us to act to others?”[i]  Here Father Michel is suggesting that the god of Islam and the God of Christianity have the same desires in human relations.  This could not be farther from the truth.  Our Christian God, teaching through His Son instructs Christians to “…love one another as I have loved you…” (John 13:14)[ii] Yet, Islam teaches that their god instructed them to “…kill the idolaters wherever you may find them; and take them, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in every place…” (Qur’an 5:9)[iii]  These two primary tenets of faith, considering their opposing goals, do not appear to allow for the followers of Islam to calmly sit down and agree that their gods desire for them to live in harmony amongst Christians.  Thus, the teachers of the Christian faith must first leave all geopolitical goals behind and focus on teaching the Holy Will of God.  Until they do this, proper education of the Christian laity will not occur in their endeavor to have dialog with Muslims.

After those who follow Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, have come into a greatly improved understanding of the teachings of their faith, then and ONLY then will they be ready to learn of the doctrines of Islam as delivered through the Qur’an.  Yet, this can offer difficulty when considering that those teachings are muddled due to geopolitical forces which cause incorrect translations of their divine text.  A single example is offered here in reference to the previously quoted Qur’anic text.  Just compare that quote of Sura 5:9 with the following:  “…you may kill the idol worshipers when you encounter them, punish them, and resist every move they make.”[iv]  Just the simple relocation of the word “may” has changed the definitive action which Muslims should act upon when they encounter the “idol worshipers” or infidels.  This one point is enough to demonstrate that Christians must be selective in choosing scholars to teach them of Islam.  The selection is of utmost importance and only secondary to those who are to teach them of the proper Christian understanding.  Christians should select their educators of Muslim beliefs in such a way to assure a correct understanding rather than receive a ‘kinder – gentler’ view of Islam.

Only after Christians recognize the doctrine of their own faith and that of Islam are they prepared to begin dialog with Muslims.  In this last step, great endeavor must be made for them to be able to communicate the differences after there are relationships to be built on.  If a ‘door-to-door evangelism’ is the intent, the Christian is doomed from the outset, for these methods are confrontational to say the least and most recoil from them.  Building friendships with those who follow Islam is important so that communication avenues can be developed in a non-confrontational way.  That is, relying on the teachings of Matthew 28, “…go into all the world…” and remembering the previously quoted John 14 text will greatly assist the Christian when they seek to have dialog with their Muslim neighbors.  The best way to do this is with the intention to ultimately speak the Gospel to them in such a way to not be threatening or argumentative.

The best way for Christianity to approach Muslims is to view it as a long and winding road.  This writing has been to briefly illustrate the important steps that must be taken as Christianity extends itself into communication with and ministry to those who follow the Muslim tradition.  The only commonality which the two faiths truly have is that they both teach their followers to convert those who don’t believe properly.  Christians can not communicate what they believe unless they know what they believe.  They can not apologetically discuss with those of other faiths unless they know the teachings of those other faiths.  These understandings are of absolute importance, yet only useful if followed with an equally important, intentional, slow, methodical approach to those in the Muslim faith.  If these three points are expanded upon, then and only then can Christianity approach Islam with a hope to open communications which will allow the Holy Spirit to work upon the hearts of Muslims and bring them to understand that Jesus is the Son of the Living God and the One who has paid for all their sin.

 Sola Dei Gloria

[i] Josh Walsh, “What Next for Muslim-Christian Relations?”, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, (May-June 2008): 68.

[ii] The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001.

[iii] The Qur’an, translated by E.H. Palmer, Oxford University Press, London, 1900, 1942.

[iv] The Qur’an, translated by Dr. Rashad Khalifa, Sura 9:5, http://www.quran-islam.org/93.html.