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A Vineyard Approach To Blessing Muslims

Carol Brooks

Part I...  A Vineyard Approach to Blessing Muslims (below)
Do the statements on the vineyard site that “We are uniquely poised and prepared to bless Muslims” and “When we think of a Vineyard approach to blessing Muslims we can't help but picture Vineyardites laying hands on Muslims all over the world.... Praying for healing, deliverance, and blessing them in Jesus name” simply convey very noble sentiments and lofty aspirations, or do these “blessings”, that we seem to be so free with, have any basis in Biblical principles.

Part II... “A Common Word”   (1)
 Examining the document  known as ”A Common Word” issued by Muslim leaders, and the Christian response... including Yale’s Reconciliation Program and Interfaith Conference, which boasted some very surprising participants.

Part III... “A Common Word” (2)
Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God? Can Muslims and Christians Be Friends? Can People Be Fooled? The Answer is Yes ! Yes! And Yes! And a Note on Muslim “Moderates”. (below)

 

ON THIS PAGE
A Vineyard Approach To Blessing Muslims
The Muslim World Summit

What is a Biblical Blessing?
In The Old Testament
The Blessing In Genesis 12:1-3
In The New Testament

Representing Jesus in a Non-Christian Society

Dr. Abdel Azim Elsiddig

 


A Vineyard Approach to Blessing Muslims
An article entitled A Vineyard Approach to Blessing Muslims on the Vineyard USA site certainly could have a point when it says that

    “Christian-Muslim relations comprise one of the momentous challenges of the 21st century. The threat of violent extremism, negative stereotypes of Muslims and ignorance have caused the church to shrink back from Jesus' commands to love and to make disciples”. [1]

However the article goes on to say... [All Emphasis Added]

    We have a stewardship. We are blessed to be a blessing. Or more accurately, we are blessed to bless all nations (Gen 12:1-3; Ps 67). When we think of a Vineyard approach to blessing Muslims we can't help but picture Vineyardites laying hands on Muslims all over the world. Praying for healing, deliverance, and blessing them in Jesus name. Muslims are highly receptive to prayer in Jesus name since Jesus was a great miracle worker in the Qur'an.

    A brief look at some of our core values shows how God has prepared the Vineyard for "such a time as this!" We are uniquely poised and prepared to bless Muslims: Our commitment to being a "reconciling community" means that we build bridges between Christians and Muslims… Our commitment to "culturally relevant witness" means that we promote creative, entrepreneurial, and innovative approaches to blessing Muslims. [1]

And asks two questions, the second one of which especially intrigued me ..

    “How can the Vineyard be agents of peace and faithfully bear witness to Christ in such a polarized world? What does a Vineyard approach to blessing Muslims look like?” [1]

They then issue the invitation to come and find the answers at ...


The Muslim World Summit
to be held on September 17th & 18th, 2010 at The Vineyard Community Church in Morris Plains, NJ. Apparently this summit will …

    “..equip those who are currently working among Muslims and those who wish to start working among Muslims, both here and around the world, with a comprehensive overview of the demands, challenges, and joys of ministering to Muslims”. [2]

Included among the speakers scheduled for the summit were.. [All Emphasis Added]

    Drs. Rick and Fran Love are both ordained Vineyard pastors who have served 30 years among Muslims and both have a degree in Intercultural Studies

    Dr. David L. Johnston is the author of Earth, Empire and Sacred Text: Muslims and Christians as Trustees of Creation.

    Jeff Burns: Jeff Burns has been active in building bridges of reconciliation and peace between Muslims and Christians for the last five years. He has started an organization called Peace on Earth Initiatives that focuses on building bridges between, Muslims, Christians and Jews by showing them their common ground that they have in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

    Craig Simonian: founder of the Vineyard Community Church in Morristown, NJ. has been involved in ministry to bless Muslims for over 17 years and has taught several courses and seminars on Islam.[3].

A note from Craig Simonian, pastor of the host church, also speaks of a "Love Your Neighbor" Dinner to be held on Saturday evening of the Summit when they [Emphasis Added]

    "... will have our "Love Your Neighbor" dinner where a Vineyard Pastor and a respected local Imam will each share about our Scriptural mandate to Love God and One Another. After that, we will enjoy a Middle-Eastern meal together and than have a Q/A time with a panel of practicing Muslims. [4]

Although I cannot avail of the invitation to attend this summit, I cannot help but wonder what our Scriptural mandate is, why exactly the Q/A time is only with "a panel of practicing Muslims" and, most importantly, is there a Biblical foundation for the concept of Blessing Muslims?

In other words .. Do the statements that “We are uniquely poised and prepared to bless Muslims” and “Vineyardites laying hands on Muslims all over the world.... Praying for healing, deliverance, and blessing them in Jesus name” simply convey very noble sentiments and lofty aspirations, or do these “blessings”, that we seem to be so free with, have any basis in Biblical principles.


What is a Biblical Blessing?
Old Testament: Just like a curse, a blessing is a tangible spoken word which conveys three meanings in the Old Testament

    1. A declaration of divine favor, or an invocation imploring divine favor on some or something;

      And moreover the king's servants came to bless our lord king David, saying, Thy God make the name of Solomon better than thy name, and make his throne greater than thy throne: and the king bowed himself upon the bed. [1 Kings 1:47]

    2. A beneficent gift which usually included well-being or happiness, a long life, healthy children, prosperity, peace, abundant crops, and a personal knowledge of Himself

      Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy beasts, the increase of thy cattle, and the young of thy flock. [Deuteronomy 28:4]

    3. Grateful praise or worship.

      And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. [Deuteronomy 8:10]

However it has to be noted that, from Adam and Eve down, God's blessing were conditional. Prosperity depended on one thing… obedience. When Adam and Eve disobeyed, the blessings they had enjoyed were reversed and mankind as a whole was cursed. The blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28 hinged on whether or not the nation of Israel heard and obeyed the voice of the Lord. Moses told them “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed; [Deuteronomy 30:19]


The Blessing In Genesis 12:1-3
When the Vineyard article says that we “We have a stewardship. We are blessed to be a blessing. Or more accurately, we are blessed to bless all nations”, they quote Genesis 12:1-3, the blessing that God spoke over Abraham, sometimes called the Abrahamic Covenant. The verses read...

    Now Jehovah said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

However an examination of this unconditional covenant shows that it was made, and applied to, one man and one man only. The three main and very literal features of this Covenant were the promise of land, the promise of many descendants and the promise of blessings…

Abraham was to be the founder of the Jewish nation that was entrusted with the oracles or revelations of God (Romans 3:2). It was this nation that would bring to the world the ultimate blessing of the Messiah, by whom God would draw all nations to Himself. The ultimate objective of God's covenant with Abraham was to bless Abraham's many descendants…  not exclusively or necessarily Abraham's physical lineage, but those who choose to be one of his spiritual descendants. [Emphasis Added]

    Know therefore that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham. [Galatians 3:7]

    that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. [Galatians 3:14. Emphasis Added] 

    "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." [Galatians 3:29]


New Testament: In the New Testament the word “blessing” also conveys the Gospel or Spiritual Blessings and that which is consecrated, or set apart for holy purposes.

    And I know that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ. [Romans 15:29]

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ: [Ephesians 1:3]

    not rendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling; but contrariwise blessing; for hereunto were ye called, that ye should inherit a blessing. [1 Peter 3:9] 

Christians, by partaking of the Lord's Supper, are solemnly set apart to the service of the Lord Jesus

    The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ? [1Corinthians 10:16]

Summary: So if God's blessing to Abraham was the great Messianic promise not given to any one else, His blessings to His people in the Old Testament were predicated upon obedience, and His blessings in the New Testament is based on the Gospel (which includes both faith in Christ and obedience to Him) … Why exactly are we so generously dispensing these “blessings” to non-believers?

But does all this mean that we can not show any kind of blessing to a non-Christian? Certainly not.


Representing Jesus in a Non-Christian Society
The apostle Peter made it clear that Christians have a huge responsibility to faithfully represent Jesus in a non-Christian society, and had a great deal to say about how this should be done, since the way we live either testifies to or contradicts what we say about Jesus. Note the words in bold in the following verse

    But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: [1 Peter 2:9] 

Resisting Moral Assimilation: The Jews who were God's chosen nation, possessors of Gods revelation often found themselves in the midst of cultures that held very different beliefs and values. Similarly, in our day and age, Christians who are citizens of God's kingdom and possessors of His good news do not have their own segregated cities, but find themselves living and working among people who have very different beliefs and values, and even worship different gods. Perhaps some of the most stern warning to both the Old Testament nation of Israel and to the New Testament church was, and is, to resist moral assimilation.

    Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; [1 Peter 2:11]

And this certainly does mean that we draw ourselves up to our self-righteous best and point the finger at the rest of society, but that we, in a quiet way, simply refuse to go along with the moral tide. We abstain from pre-marital sex, avoid porn, and are scrupulously honest in our dealings with others. Although we are not ultimately under their authority, this includes being genuinely cooperative with the governing authorities. (The exception to this is if they call us to do something that is opposed to what the Scriptures teach. In which rare case, our loyalty is to God rather than human rulers).

Good Works: However Peter was nowhere near finished… He went onto say.

    having your behavior seemly among the Gentiles; that, wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they behold, glorify God in the day of visitation… For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men [1 Peter 2:12, 15] 

In other words what we don't do is not enough, but has to be accompanied by positive action or good works. Which means actively doing good even to those who do not believe in Jesus and may even be hostile to Him. This can, and often does, accomplish a couple of ends… Refute negative perceptions of Christianity and perhaps even elicit positive curiosity about the Gospel message.

This is all pretty much summed in verse 17…  “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king”.


Mercy
The Vineyard points out that...

    Approximately 60% of the world's poor and 80% of the world's refugees our (are) Muslim. As those who have received mercy, we cannot help but demonstrate the mercy of Christ to these needy neighbors - no strings attached. [1]

And while this may be a classic case of stating the obvious, one has to bear in mind that not all mercy is within our power to give. Mercy is used in two different contexts in the Bible.. Two examples of each follow

a) The compassion which causes God or man to alleviate the suffering of another human being. Of this Jesus had to say Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy [Matthew 5:7] 

    And behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, Lord, have mercy on us, thou son of David. [Matthew 20:30] 

    Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is epileptic, and suffereth grievously; for oft-times he falleth into the fire, and off-times into the water. [Matthew 17:15]

b) the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ, which no one else can receive unless they follow Him as Lord and Savior.

    howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his longsuffering, for an ensample of them that should thereafter believe on him unto eternal life. [1 Timothy 1:16]

    who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. [1 Peter 2:10] 

As Peter said, we should by well-doing put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, but what is certain is that we cannot impart "God's Blessings" to a non believer, whether done in Jesus' name or not.


Dr. Abdel Azim Elsiddig:
Dr. Rick Love, described on his site [5], as an internationally recognized specialist in Christian-Muslim relations, President of Peace Catalyst International and a consultant with the Vineyard USA (on matters of Christian-Muslim relations?) is to be one of the speakers at the Muslim World Summit.

Dr. Love recently spoke at the 8th Annual Convention of the Muslim American Society and Islamic Circle of North America held on December 26, 2009 in Chicago, and started his address by thanking Dr. Abdel Azim Elsiddig for the invitation, saying that

    “Dr. Abdel Azim is a great friend, peacemaker, and bridge builder” and that he (Dr. Love) was “trying to follow his example and be a peacemaker and bridge builder”. [6]

However far from being “a peacemaker and bridge builder”, Dr. Abdel Azim Elsiddig who, according to the Islamic Learning Foundation (ILF) [7] was born in the Sudan and studied law and Sharia (Islamic law) at the Faculty of Law, University of Khartoum, has been involved in some very unpeaceable activities. Bear with me for a moment…

According to the web site of the CI (Counterintelligence) Centre of Alexandria, Virginia, Mark Deli Siljander, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan and once a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations General Assembly, pleaded guilty in federal court to [All Emphasis Added]

    “obstruction of justice and to acting as an unregistered foreign agent related to his work for an Islamic charity with ties to international terrorism”.

    Co-defendant Abdel Azim El-Siddig, of Chicago, Ill., a former IARA fundraiser, also pleaded guilty today to conspiring with Siljander and others to hire Siljander to lobby for IARA's removal from a Senate Finance Committee list of charities suspected of having terrorist ties, while concealing this advocacy and not registering with the proper authorities.

The organization in question was IARA.. an Islamic charity in Columbia, Mo., that served as the U.S. office of an international organization headquartered in Khartoum, Sudan. However

    IARA was closed in October 2004, after being identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a specially designated global terrorist organization, for the support its international offices provided to Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and the Taliban. [8]

Incidentally, Siljander falsely denied that he was hired to advocate for IARA, and falsely claimed that “the payments from IARA were charitable donations intended to assist him in writing a book about bridging the gap between Islam and Christianity”.

El-Siddig is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine of up to $250,000.

While it is true that the indictment came some seven months after Dr. Rick Love's speech to the Muslim American Society, surely he had to have been aware that there was an investigation in progress and IARA had already been identified as a “specially designated global terrorist organization”.

But this is not all

Dr. Rick Love says he "had the privilege of working with a team to put on an international dialogue referred to as "the Common Word" and it was...

    “a joy and honor it was to meet with 75 High Level Muslim Leaders and 75 High Level Christian Leaders to dialogue about these important issues!” [6]

So What is “The Common Word”

Part II... Examining the document  known as ”A Common Word” issued by Muslim leaders, and the Christian response... including Yale’s Reconciliation Program and Interfaith Conference, which boasted some very surprising participants.. HERE

 

End Notes
[1] A Vineyard Approach to Blessing Muslims.
http://www.vineyardusa.org/site/task-forces/blessing-muslims

[2] Muslim World Summit http://www.vineyardusa.org/site/event/muslim-world-summit-0

[3] Web site of The Vineyard Community Church in Morris Plains, New Jersey.
http://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?eventid=855258

[4] [http://tapestrylife.org/entwine/?p=583

[5] http://ricklove.net/?page_id=2

[6] Dr. Rick Love. My Pilgrimage in Peacemaking.
http://www.ricklove.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/My-Pilgrimage-in-Peacemaking.pdf

[7] http://www.ilfchicago.org/past-courses/23

[8] Former Congressman Pleads Guilty to Obstructing Justice, Acting as Unregistered Foreign Agent for Jihadist Organization.
http://cicentre.net/wordpress/index.php/2010/07/08/former-congressman-pleads-guilty-to
-obstructing-justice-acting-as-unregistered-foreign-agent-for-jihadist-organization/

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