Book Review: Face to Face with Jesus

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To join the discussion about Face to Face with Jesus, A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love, or to buy a copy, go here

Face to Face with Jesus is a book for our time. Not because it deals with a Muslim girl’s conversion to Christ, but because it teaches every Christian about our own call to faithfulness.

Samaa Habib met Jesus in a powerful conversion experience. I know from my own conversion experience that, once you meet the living Christ in this way, you will never be the same again.

Every convert who has walked a path outside Christ will be forced to choose Jesus again and again as the tentacles that link them to their other life are amputated one by one. My advice to all Christians is to read this book and do it like Samaa did it. Don’t do it in the step-by-step, trying-to-cling-to-the-people-of-your-other-life way that I did it.

Samaa never stopped loving her Muslim family, even when they beat her for her faith in Christ and tried to force her to renounce Him. Instead, she prayed and fasted for them. It took much tragedy and suffering, but in the end, her entire family came to know Jesus.

Instead of hiding her light under a bushel as most of us do, she spoke of her faith to everyone she met. This resulted in threats to her life, shunning and persecution. But she never stopped speaking of Jesus.

As I said, this is a book for our time. We are under attack here in America. This attack is relentless and it is gathering steam. Samaa’s witness is for us, as well as all the rest of the world.

I don’t have the native courage that Samaa has. From what I’ve seen, most other American Christians do not have it, either. But in Christ, we can do all things.

The keys to Samaa’s walk with faith are worship, prayer, study and fasting. She went to worship services, even when it meant risking her life. She prayed deeply and often. She studied Scripture. And she employed fasting as a means of intercession for the conversion of others.

Her route to God was through a charismatic congregation. She was introduced to Jesus by charismatic missionaries who had left the safety and comfort of America to go to her country and evangelize for Him.

Even when jihadists bombed their church and many people were wounded and killed, they did not stop. Samaa was terribly injured in this bomb attack. She experienced a near-death experience in which she made a choice to give up her martyr’s crown and come back to bring more people, her family in particular, to Christ.

Reading this book inspired me to pray more. The ever-growing evil in our society saddens me deeply. I need to talk about this sadness with Jesus.

I recommend Face to Face to Jesus to all Christians. It is an inspirational story that teaches courage in Christ for our times.

From the Guardian: Meriam Ibrahim Is at United States Embassy

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The Guardian reports that Meriam Ibrahim is safe at the United States Embassy in Sudan.

Her husband, Daniel Wani, spoke with Agence France-Presse by phone.

The Guardian story does not make it clear whether the charges against Mrs Ibrahim have been dismissed. It says that she was released from police custody on the condition that she remain in Sudan. That sounds to me like she is still not in the clear.

She was charged with forgery because she attempted to leave Sudan using a passport that was issued by South Sudan. I am guessing that this passport was obtained based on the fact that her husband has dual South Sudan/American citizenship. Sudan does not recognize her marriage because her husband is a Christian and she was, at least legally, a Muslim.

Mrs Ibrahim was originally charged with apostasy and sentenced to be flogged and then executed by hanging because she refused to recant her Christian faith. She was 8 months pregnant at the time. She gave birth to her baby while she was in prison.

The Sudanese court overturned her apostasy conviction and she and her family were trying to leave Sudan when she was re-arrested.

According to the Guardian article, the envoy for the United States state department met with Sudanese foreign ministry officials to obtain Mrs Ibrahim’s release from jail. Hopefully, this means that the family will be able to leave Sudan soon.

Mrs Ibrahim’s husband said that the motive behind the initial attack on his wife was a desire to steal her business interests. He said that Mrs Ibrahim owns a hair salon, a mini mart and agricultural land.

All in all, it sounds as if this family would make a wonderful contribution to the United States. I hope they can begin their new lives of freedom here soon.

Meriam Ibrahim has Been Charged with a New Crime. Faces 7-Year Sentence.

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Meriam Ibrahim has not been freed. The story I posted earlier was incorrect.

She was arrested once again while she and her family were at the airport, awaiting a flight to leave the country.

According to The Independent, the new charge is that she was using a passport obtained from South Sudan. Sudan does not recognize her as a South Sudanese citizen because it does not recognize her marriage to her Christian husband. Her husband has South-Sudan/American citizenship.

Mrs Ibrahim is being charged with forging her passport, a crime that is punishable by up to seven years in prison. She is being held in a Khartoum police station. Her family has refused to leave without her.

From The Independent:

 

The US and South Sudanese ambassadors have been summoned to Khartoum by Sudan over the rearrest of a Christian convert accused of apostasy trying to flee the country after being released from death row.
Mariam Yahya Ibrahim was freed on Monday after an appeals court cancelled the death sentence imposed for having converted from Islam to marry her Christian husband, after the government came under what it called unprecedented international pressure.
But she was detained again on Tuesday for trying to use documents issued by the embassy of South Sudan to fly out of Khartoum with her American-South Sudanese husband and their two children – deepening the diplomatic wrangle over her case.Sudan does not recognise her as a South Sudanese citizen because, despite lifting her sentence, it does not recognise her marriage to a Christian, something not allowed under the Islamic laws applied in Sudan, where most people are Sunni Muslims.South Sudan, with a majority Christian population, became independent from Sudan after a public vote in 2011 that ended years of civil war between the two states.
“The airport passport police arrested Abrar after she presented emergency travel documents issued by the South Sudanese embassy and carrying an American visa,” Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services’ media department said on Facebook, referring to Ibrahim by her Muslim name.

Fortnight for Freedom: Standing for Religious Liberty on Thursday, June 26, 2014

 

The most important thing we can do to stand for religious liberty today is to take action in support of Meriam Ibrahim, who has been detained — again — and charged — again — with a crime related to her conversion to Christianity.

Mrs Ibrahim is being held at a Khartoum police station. This time, she’s charged with using a “forged” passport. According to reports in The Independent, the government of Sudan is refusing to recognize her passport because it was issued by the government of South Sudan. Sudan does not recognize Mrs Ibrahim’s right to a passport from South Sudan because they do not recognize her marriage to her Christian husband, who is a citizen of South Sudan.

Mrs Ibrahim’s husband is also an American citizen.

The crime they have charged her with is punishable by a 7-year prison sentence.

Please email, call or write the Sudanese Embassy and tell them that you support Mrs Ibrahim and request that the Sudanese government release her immediately.

You can contact the Sudanese Embassy by email here.

You can contact the Sudanese Embassy by phone or letter here:

Embassy Of The Republic Of Sudan
2210 Massachusetts Ave
Washington DC,20008,
Ph: 202.338.8565
Fax: 202.667.2406

Conversion Story: Finding Jesus in Prison

Those who are forgiven much, love much.  Jesus Christ

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Sudanese Court Orders Release of Meriam Ibrahim, Who was Sentenced to Death for Her Christian Faith

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SUNA, Sudan’s official news agency, says that the Court of Cassation in Khartoum has canceled the death sentence against Meriam Ibrahim. The court has also ordered her release.

Miss Ibrahim, who has a Muslim father, was raised by her Christian mother. She was convicted of apostasy for marrying a Christian and given a death sentence. She was 8 months pregnant at the time.

For more details, go to Fox News.

Former Communist Leader Recants at the End, Receives Last Rites

Photograph of Wojciech Jaruzelski taken in 1968 around the time he became the Defence Minister of Poland CNA 6 5 14

Wojeiech Jaruzelski Photo Source: CNA

There will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents. Jesus Christ

There must have been rejoicing in heaven a few weeks ago. That’s when Wojeiech Jaruzelski, the former Communist dictator or Poland asked for last rites.

Mr Jaruzelski was also the former and the commander of the Soviet Military forces that put down an attempted move toward democracy in Czechoslovakia. He was an avowed atheist for most of his adult life.  

True to its way of doing things, the Church accepted him back and rejoiced in his salvation. Mr Jaruzelski died May 25, following a stroke and was given a funeral Mass on May 30. He had recanted of his atheism and asked for the rites of the Church two weeks before his death. 

“What a … beautiful thing, that the head of the government which was at war with the Church should in the end be reconciled with the Church. That’s cause to ring the bells of glory, isn’t it?” said Fr Raymond Gawronski. 

From CNA:

.- The recent funeral Mass said for Wojciech Jaruzelski, who was a Polish military commander and communist politician during the Cold War, has been received as an occasion for rejoicing.

“What a very odd but beautiful thing, that the head of the government which was at war with the Church should in the end be reconciled with the Church. That’s cause to ring the bells of glory, isn’t it?” said Fr. Raymond Gawronski, a priest of Society of Jesus’ Maryland province and a Polish-American, in an interview this month with CNA.

Jaruzelski, who was for many years an avowed atheist, died May 25 following a stroke. He was given a funeral Mass in Warsaw May 30, said by Bishop Jozef Guzdek of the Polish Military Ordinariate.

A priest at the ordinariate’s cathedral announced that two weeks prior to his death, Jaruzelski had requested last rites.

Jaruzelski was born in 1923 to a prominent Catholic family of Poland, and shortly after country’s invasion by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, he and his family were deported to Siberia, and he was later made to work in coal mines in Kazakhstan.

Before World War II ended, he had joined the Soviet-backed Polish army to fight the Nazis. He continued to fight the anti-communist Polish Home Army after the world war, defending the Soviet-backed Polish government.

Jaruzelski formally joined Poland’s communist party in 1948, and 20 years later became Poland’s defense secretary; that year, he occupied Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring, an effort at democratization.

In 1981, he seized power in Poland and soon declared martial law in an effort to suppress Solidarity, an anti-communist trade union inspired by Catholic social doctrine. Tens of thousands were arrested, and some 100 were killed in the crackdown; Jaruzelski’s imposition of martial law lasted until 1983.

Book Review: The Cross and Gendercide

To join the discussion on The Cross and Gendercide, or to order a copy, go here

It is not often that I read a book that I could have written.

It’s even more rare when I read a book that is somewhat similar to one that I intend to write.

But that is what happened when I read The Cross and Gendercide, A Theological Response to the Global Violence Against Women and Girls.

I have devoted much of my adult life, beginning when I was barely out of my teens and going right through to this afternoon, to two majors issues: The way we treat our elderly, and a search for an end to violence against women.

Elizabeth Gerhardt, the author of The Cross and Gendercide, sounds like my sister from another mother. The differences between us are obvious, of course. She’s an academician/theologian and an administrator of shelters to protect and help women who are victims of violence. I have worked almost exclusively through the political arena.

She evidently has clung to her Christian faith throughout her career. I, on the other hand, left Christianity and God altogether for most of my early adulthood. My reason, ironically enough, was violence against women.

That leads me directly to the subject of Dr Gerhard’s book. I walked out of Christianity and spent around 17 years seething with anger toward Christ and his followers precisely because of the indifference and often the hostility I witnessed within the church toward women who were victims of violence. In particular, I was almost destroyed spiritually by the response I saw in one church toward a rape victim.

Dr Gerhard approaches this topic from a more scholarly perspective than I can muster. Even today, that old rage kicks off when I think about these things.

I think Dr Gerhard’s more measured approach is needed. But I also know from experience that my take-no-prisoners way of doing things has its place is this fight, as well. We are agreed on the topic of her book. The Church does not have an adequate theological response to violence against women. And that adequate theology is not difficult to find. It is right in front of every Christian in the cross of Calvary.

There is a reason why victims of human trafficking cry for hours after seeing The Passion of the Christ. The God they encounter in that movie is a God Who can understand them.

Watching Jesus being reduced to an object and then beaten, tortured and murdered resonates with them in a way that it does not with people who have never experience these things themselves. The cross changes God from a frowning figurehead off in the distance into a brother God Who understands and shares their anguish in a way that goes beyond words and does not need them.

Through the miracle of salvation, Christ dignifies their own dehumanization and lifts them out of the shame and loss of self that scars them.

That is the miracle of the cross. It is the message of Christianity.

The other miracle, and one which the Church ignores at its peril, is that these women from all over the world, including our own neighborhoods, who are victims of savage violence are our Jesus. They are Christ crucified, right in front of us. If we ignore them, we ignore Him.

That also is the miracle of the cross. It also is the message of Christianity.

I didn’t see this for a long time, for two reasons. First, I sought solutions in creating social responses such as rape crisis centers, and in changing laws. Second, I had x-ed both God and the church off my list of possible allies. I believed they did not care about violence against women, that in many circumstances, they promoted it.

My conversion experience was mostly an encounter with the living God. It was not intellectual. But it forced me to reconsider almost everything in my life, which was, many times, a deeply thoughtful and prayerful process. The first thing I had to learn is that my understanding of the nature of God and especially my understanding of His reaction to violence against women was wrong.

I learned, through prayer mostly, the depths of God’s love for womankind. I also learned the degree of depravity that violence against women really is. To call it a human rights violation does not touch it. Our God is Jesus Christ, Who was born of a woman. Everything that is human about Him came from His mother. She is the only human being who has ever or who ever will be elevated to the status of Queen of Heaven.

Violence against women is a direct sin against Our Lady.

After decades of starting organizations and passing laws and still encountering violence against women and indifference to that violence at every turn, I had a sort of epiphany. I had been too angry to see it before. In fact, it took me a long time to be able to think about it at all. And that epiphany was simply that the Church owes Jesus and Mary more than they have given where violence against women is concerned.

The victims of egregious denial of their basic human rights change from clime to clime. The group of people singled out to suffer varies from one location to the next. But no matter where you go, the one group who always has a firm grip on second place, and who is always subjected to violence and degradation of many sorts, is girls and women.

Women are bought and sold, marketed like chattel, all over the globe. With the crime against humanity that is egg harvesting, their bodies are harvested to be sold on the internet. With surrogacy, their bodies are rented out as incubators. With prostitution, trafficking and porn, they are sold and used as if they were appliances.

Women are subject to the most brutal violence imaginable in every country in the world. Women must fear being attacked for no reason wherever they go.

This is not random violence. It is a universal, global, culturally-sanctioned human rights violation that in terms of scale, persistence and ubiquity outweighs all others.

Where is the Christian outrage over violence against women? I’m not talking about a few seminars and a couple of tut-tut speeches scattered around. Where is the Christian response to this degradation of half the human race that the Cross demands?

The Church cannot sit idly by while Christ is crucified over and over again in His sisters all around this globe of ours. The Church does not dare be silent when Our Lady is degraded by this degradation of the female.

The Church needs to stand up on the whole issue of violence against women. Violence against women is a historic, endemic, universal human rights violation that spans humanity from dateline to dateline, pole to pole. It is the universal human rights violation of humanity.

The Cross and Gendercide raises the serious question of how we should develop a theology against violence against women. The author correctly points us to the cross in our search for this theology.

The Cross and Gendercide is is well worth reading. I recommend it.

 

 

Atonement and the Undoable

Note: This is a re-post of an earlier post. I hope you enjoy reading it again.

Forgive

Eve Tushnet and a friend went to see a presentation at the Jewish Community Center in Washington, DC. The presentation was designed to prepare people for the High Holy Days.

Since the High Holy Days are about repentance, it tracks that the presentation was on atonement. However, Eve finished the evening more bemused that enlightened. As she put it,

All of the stories were interesting and for the most part well-told–but literally none of them followed the form I was most hoping for: “I sinned, I realized I was wrong, and I made amends, here’s how.” Several of the stories explored related questions of conscience: Ritija Gupta turned the story of how a bad-girl friend persuaded her to steal sixty cents’ worth of beads, at age seven, into a sharp little parable on how we misunderstand the gravity of our actions, condemning ourselves for peccadilloes while assimilating huge ongoing sins into our sense of what’s normal and acceptable. The host, Amy Saidman, did a funny shtik about the war between “Citizen Amy,” whose conscience would never allow her to damage a car and not even leave a note, and “Spray-Tan Amy,” who can’t stop because she is receiving an award that night, who is special and above the rules.

… The most powerful story came from the most intensely compelling storyteller, Colin Murchie. He’s someone I’ll be looking out for at future Speakeasy events. I don’t want to tell his story for him, but it was about a night when he was forced to completely reassess the motives which had led him to become a volunteer firefighter in a very tough Maryland suburb.

Based on Eve’s description, I would say that one reason the stories didn’t lead to atonement is that they weren’t about serious sin. I understand why, or at least I think I do.

The evening wouldn’t have been entertaining if the story tellers had talked about their adulteries, abortions, shoplifting and the night the guys all got drunk at the fraternity house and passed the girl around. If the wife-beater among them had confessed to beating his wife, and the woman who was sleeping with her husband’s best friend had told all, the evening might have ended early.

But the truth is that the first requirement for atonement has to be an action that wounds someone else.

Let me give you an example. Back in my misspent youth, I was the NARAL Director for Oklahoma. I referred women for abortions. I helped organize the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma and got it up and running.

In short, I helped kill people.

Lots of people.

Helpless little people that I denied were people while I was advocating for their deaths.

Now there’s something that needs a little atonement.

But how? How does anyone atone for so heinous a crime?

For those of you who are reading this with baited breath, waiting for me to give you an answer, I’ll cut to the bottom line: You can’t. You can not atone for sins as black as the ones I’ve committed.

Can’t do it.

Nothing you can do, nothing you can say, nothing, but nothing, but nothing will ever make right again what you have done wrong.

But if, for reasons that confound all comprehending, God still loves you, even after what you’ve done; if He welcomes you home to Him with joy that defies your ability to find words to describe it, and if He then puts you back into the same place where you committed some of your worst sins in the past –

– If He does all that, then, just maybe, you get the chance to … not do it over, because nobody ever gets the chance to do anything over … but to do it again, and this time to do it better.

How does an adulterer atone for his or her adultery? By being faithful to their spouse.

How does a wife-beater atone for beating his wife? By loving her the way God intended.

But even this kind of living atonement cannot undo the harm you have done. One of the hardest penalties of committing grave sin is that you can’t un-sin it. 

You can’t unadulter, unbeat, unrape, unkill anyone.

Without Jesus Christ you are stuck there in the pit of your sin and remorse forever. You will be a murderer/adulterer/liar/beater all your days. This is why I sometimes get so impatient with people who come on this blog and demand that the Catholic Church change the rules to tell them that their sins aren’t sins. They never do this about eating too many cookies or being a volunteer firefighter for the “wrong” motives.

Nope. They’re ok with those things and the Church’s teachings about them.

It’s the biggies that get them on here demanding a hall pass to heaven. They want the Church to tell them that their adulteries, abortions, disordered sex and lying, cheating ways are not a sin. They claim that anyone, anywhere, who says otherwise is “judging” them.

There are days when I want to put my arms around these lost souls and hug them. There are other days I want to ask, Are you kidding? Where do you get the arrogance to do these things and then demand that the Church — the Church — say that they are not sins?

Do you know what saved me?

The knowledge that I had sinned.

Without that, I would still be lost.

As for atonement, that came long afterwards, when I was mature enough in Christ to survive it. Atonement for me was being given an extra measure of forgiveness I most assuredly did not deserve. God put me in the place and almost coerced events so that I would be given the opportunity to pass pro life legislation. Atonement for me was being pilloried by pro abortion people. I was forced (against my will, I have to admit) to suffer public hazing for the babies.

It was that suffering, that character assassination and constant emotional battering, that finally set me free.

God forgave me, and, after a period of intense grief, I realized that I could not refuse His forgiveness by hanging onto my grief any longer. To do otherwise would be to say that my sins were greater than His mercy.

But it was the atonement — which in my case amounted to a kind of social death — that finally set me completely free of my sins.

I could not undo what I had done. I could not unkill those I had helped kill. I was powerless to rewind the havoc I had wreaked with my sinfulness.

But God could heal me of this grief, and He did. He gave me the chance to suffer just a bit, and the suffering cleansed me in my heart and mind.

I read somewhere — I think it was In This House of Brede, but I’m not sure — that atonement is really at-one-ment. That is a beautiful thought, and I think a true one. Atonement heals the person who atones and allows them to fully rejoin the human race, including those they have harmed, with a renewed self and a new purpose.

Now I, the former advocate of abortion, champion the unborn. I moved from who I was to who I am, from my then to God’s now. In the process, I found a wholeness and forgiveness that only someone who has gone to Jesus in the hopelessness and desperation of knowing that nothing they do can ever undo what they have already done can understand.

None of this belongs in a play, of course. At least not an entertaining one.

But it is the truth.

Saint John Paul II and the Korean Church

Saint John Paul II’s effect on the Church in Korea. There are now 5,000,000 Catholics in Korea.

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