The grace and blessing of God the Father and Lord Jesus Christ be upon all who read this. I was thirty-six years old when I accepted Christ as my Savior. I wish I could tell you that it was a bolt out of the blue and answers came forth like a river, but that was not the case. It would only be the end of the beginning of my journey to know the Lord Jesus. My name is Joseph and this is my testimony.
My parents where Sunni Muslims from Palestine and I was born and raised in the United States. My education in Islam came from my father. I see no need of going into depth about my instruction in Islam, only to say it was sufficient. However, never in my mind or heart have I believed the one teaching that in my opinion shares the center stage of Islamic teachings, that being the claim that Jesus was never crucified. From a very early age I rejected this teaching. That rejection would be reinforced through statements made by my father and other Muslims, who almost in the same breath would say Jesus was never crucified, the Jews crucified Jesus, Jesus body was stolen, etc. etc. Such are the difficulties I encountered concerning the Crucifixion. Still, it was my father's knowledge of Islam and Mohammed that would mold my perception of religion.
The Holy Bible was as welcome in our home as the Holy Qur'an. We were never forbidden to read from it. Many times I tried to read the Holy Bible, but much of it was not understandable. I now say with the benefit of hindsight, it was a closed book to me. Verses were pointed out, which Muslims believe are prophecies of Mohammed. Like other Muslims my father would say, The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is 1+1+1=3, but unlike other Muslims he would never say Christians believed in three gods. When Muslims made such a claim, my father would become upset and make it known to them, that Christians believe in the God of Abraham. Never once did he state the Qur'an was wrong, but many times he said, Muslims have no right to say how another person believes. Unforgettable to me is the image of my father, when I asked him, whether it is true that Jesus would return. He did not say a word, while nodding his head yes, gazing into space. This was my father, who remains an enigma to me. If he had conflicts, they were not shared with anyone. The lesson learned? The Holy Bible and Holy Qur'an are to be trusted only in part, take them with a grain of salt.
I carried the religion of my father and his fathers as a Coat of Arms, an Arab with a rich heritage. I could claim Abraham as my father of old. I belonged to a people blessed by God and from which a great prophet had risen. My noble ancestors had destroyed idol worship with brave and just conquest. Today's world bears witness to our achievements and contributions to culture, science and math. The majestic Arab history was second to none. How could I refuse such a wonderful inheritance? Added to me was newfound contempt for other religions, in particular Christianity. Courtesy of my relatives' Islamic teachings filling the void after my father's death. Gone was the respect and dignity I was to give those of different beliefs, according to my father's instructions on decency. In all this existed nowhere in my heart a love for Allah and his words, the Holy Qur'an. How could He or anyone else expect me to love a being that is unknown? To be sure I was in awe of this all-powerful and incomprehensible God, but respect of him came from fear and not from love. That fear would subside, much like a man who death has companioned far to long, he no longer fears its power.
I finished my enlistment in the Marine Corps, with one year duty in Vietnam. The following years would see hedonism, poverty, prosperity, drunkenness, sobriety, and eventually marriage, adultery, divorce. Never during this time did I consider God, whether doing good or evil. I had broken every Commandment God had written. I was a man with blood on his hands, but the only thing my relatives asked, did I eat pork. The look of relief on their face when I answered "No", almost made me laugh. My answer was true, but how I wished a bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich could be the cause of all my problems. Through those years, I would often reflect on my life and where God is.
The reflection on my past revealed a man who gave all glory to himself for the good times and accused God for the bad times. Never seeing my unfairness to God. I became angry at God who created me with no say in nature. How could he judge me without ever knowing what it is to be human? If He were a man, he too would fail. If we are his children then why hasn't he revealed himself? All the questions and accusations I made towards God could fill a book. God must have been fed up with my pseudo reflections that served only my own glory, because they were reaching a terrible, but thankful end.
My questions would be answered. It would not be with gentleness to one innocent and honest in his questions, but with horrible shock to a man who was long ago given the answers. I began to hear familiar voices, some who's faces and names have long been forgotten. The voices belonged to Christians who witnessed to me and I tried to shove them out of my mind. However their words would not release me. We are to worship only the God of Abraham and this is just as true for Christians. How can it be then, they claim to do so? Why are obstacles and dilemmas being placed before me? As a Muslim my concept of God was that he would do no such things as Christians claimed. I tried to think intelligently, but more questions arose. How could I be logical about this when logic told me the universe should not exist? The same logic that my early childhood used to reject the crucifixion account of Islamic belief. My dilemma was not going to be solved with logic but with prayer. I prayed without consideration to Islamic belief or what kind of answer I should receive. My prayer was met with silence, but my lips would not be silent and heard myself say "Yes, He is the Son of God." Thought had not given birth to my words; why then did I say this? What should I do with the words I have uttered? A struggle within heart and mind ensued bringing me close to collapse. Why is it now that I feel this terrible ultimatum (more on this later)? Though I had not reconciled Jesus, love, sin and the Crucifixion, I confessed Jesus Christ is my Savior. My torment disappeared, but confusion on many things continued. Any person who just embraced a faith would begin reading its scriptures. This was not the case with me and I continued holding on to the old things, including Islam. These were the things which gave me identity, without them I would no longer exist.
Shortly after, while discussing my accepting Lord Jesus Christ with a very good Muslim friend. I found myself answering questions of my past reflections. No longer can we accuse God and say, "He does not know what its is to be man, because he has lived as a man," I told my friend. Wait a minute, I thought, where did that come from. No one has explained it to me like this before. It was not something given thought to when I accepted Jesus. I realized then, that never before had I said Lord Jesus is God. My thoughts returned to those past reflections that accused God. "My God," my mind shouted, "you have indeed come down as a man, you have revealed yourself, you are the man Jesus." From where did this new understanding and guidance come from? Euphoria turned to horror when I realized the Christian witnesses had never failed to understand my questions. My heart was deaf to the answer, delighting only in its questions. Little did I realize much understanding of the Lord Jesus was yet to come. He forgave me for my sins, but my Lord Jesus was not about to let me get off easy for not running to him when called. Let me now return for a moment to the ultimatum time of struggle.
It was then that a demanding feeling overtook me, leaving me drained of emotion and strength. It was telling me to accept that Jesus died for my sins or reject him completely. What a strange ultimatum, whatever I chose would no longer make me a Muslim. God, does indeed know best, I will get my answer for that ultimatum.
Years later, as a Christian, I received a reason for that ultimatum when engaged in email discussion/debate with a Muslim (whom I will call Jay). It was discernable from Jay's email that he was intelligent and would be an interesting person to have in my life. The downside, as a Muslim his demeanor was predictable. That is, like most Muslims (including myself) he had biting wit, was sarcastic and becoming angry when challenged, ending with "my religion is mine and nobody can tell me how to believe." Indeed and agreed, if it was not for the fact that Muslims (again, myself) have been telling Christians for centuries what they believe. To support his case against a crucified Christ he refered to a book written by the atheist Kinsey Graves. Incidentally, this book was even rejected by the host web site, a freethinker organization, for being unscholarly, and readers were warned nothing in it should be believed (their emphasis). Not only did the author claim no crucifixion occurred but also, Jesus never existed. His claim of a nonexistent Jesus was understandable, considering the problems it would cause an atheist. The shame is, the extent to which some Muslims will go to support their scriptures. Initially it disturbed me, to put it mildly, a Muslim was accepting the words of the very person who rejects Allah. However, the greatest shock was the realization, that is exactly what I did as a Muslim. To refute Christianity I would embrace and repeat corrupt or false evidence notwithstanding that these lies would make the Qur'an null and void. The reason for the haunting ultimatum from years past was unfolding before me. If I accepted a lesser Jesus than the one of the Holy Bible, I would have to accept God, creator of the beginning and end was unable to protect his prophet, except through deception. A deception that would serve no purpose but to deceive the followers of Lord Jesus, the very people who desired to worship the God of Abraham, keep God's commandments, and to be called God's friends. Any reason for this deception would leave us with a failed prophet, worse a God who has failed to bring and forever protect his message to the world. I finally understood the essence of that mysterious ultimatum. If Jesus is anything less than Lord, we will readily argue him out of our beliefs. If he exists in the lesser then indeed he does not exist at all. Some might say I may have read to much into his argument. I beg to differ, because in no uncertain terms, Jay had argued Jesus out of his beliefs. In fairness to Jay the fault does not lie with him, but with me. I was the one, whose past witnessed against the Lord Christ and presented self-serving interpretations or doctrines, alien to the Qur'an, as evidence. Even more sadly, the secret pleasure my heart received from those who turned from Christ to atheism. How could I ever believe an atheist was the ally of Allah? Nevertheless as a supposed Christian, I was accepting a lesser Jesus for I have been doing nothing more then Islamizing Christianity.
During my brief email discussion with Jay, I realized my conversion had only substituted one religion for another. My spiritual relationship with God and how I governed myself in this world remained unchanged. I was better prepared to defend Mohammed (and did) than my reason for hope as a Christian. It would be the Lord Jesus in words and deed who finally gave me an understanding of how we are to worship our Father. I began to focus on God, praying constantly and purifying my mind and heart. He opened the eyes of my heart as I sought to know Him. My mind became overwhelmed as I read the Holy Bible. It was rushed through history, the present and future. Answering questions, discarding questions, and answering questions never asked. It was no longer a closed book. As I read, looking into my heart, I came face to face not only with myself, but with my Creator. I wish I could tell you it was a pleasant experience seeing both, but instead it was terrible. Please let me say here, I cannot imagine nor do I want to know how much more horrible it might be in the Day to come. I went through the gamut of emotions, but from them, only love, joy, and hope prevailed. True, Lord, the obstacles before me where the ones I had placed for myself. If I trust your Holy Bible only in part then I trust in nothing you have said.
It was no longer strange to me that God wants to know me and desires to commune with me, and has died for me. As a father with children, I know each are individuals and not a just a group that live in my home. I desire to know and commune with each of them and if necessary die for them. Could it be that I am more loving than a God who would do no such thing? I cannot describe the hope, God's wonderful love has given me. God was not beyond my understanding anymore. To be sure, God is still beyond my comprehension. There are those who will separate the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and say, it's three gods and we Christians are just playing mind games with ourselves. I submit to them, the games are yours to play and lose. Creator, Redeemer and Comforter cannot be separated from God, nor can Love, Salvation, and Communion. Is this not what Christians have always testified to be the One God, the God of Abraham? How readily I had accepted empty words to describe The Living God, but not the action or presence that manifested them. This is my testimony, of the last 12 years, of a continuing journey to understand God. May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ give you peace. Amen.
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