Learning to Face Death from Nabeel Qureshi

Photo by Nabeel Qureshi

“It’s a little unsettling to watch the vlog of someone who knows he’s about to die,” I remember telling my mother after watching what would be Nabeel Qureshi’s second last video blog on YouTube just last week.

In it, the Pakistani-American Muslim-turned-Christian apologist spoke about his final stages of life and how he was receiving palliative care.

Still, both of us were shocked by how quickly the 34-year-old’s passing came. The popular itinerant speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) died on Saturday, 16 September, after a year-long battle with stomach cancer. He leaves behind his wife, Michelle, and two-year-old daughter, Aya.

As tributes poured in for Nabeel over the weekend, I found myself saddened by his death and wondering why God took him at such a young age, when he was still so active, effective, and passionate in ministry.

I first heard about Nabeel two years ago when a friend told me about his book, Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward. Reading his book, I was struck by how thoughtfully and objectively he had presented the facts about Islam and Christianity.

As I started reading up more about him and watching his videos, I was moved by Nabeel’s deep conviction and commitment to the gospel despite what it cost him, and heartened that God had raised such a brilliant and articulate person to reach the masses—in particular the Muslim community—for Him. Months later, I saw the heartbreaking news on Nabeel’s Facebook page: he had advanced stomach cancer, and the prognosis was grim.

As I’ve been following his progress intermittently since then, his death, though imminent and expected, still feels sudden and surreal. But the legacy that he has left behind—and the lives he has impacted during his short 34 years on earth—is unquestionable. Being just a couple of years younger than him, I cannot help but think about my own life and wonder about the kind of legacy I would leave behind one day.

One of the things about Nabeel that has deeply impacted me was how he faced death. Unlike many others, he had the privilege of knowing and preparing for his last days on earth. Even up till his last days, he was still uploading video clips testifying about Jesus. Perhaps, however, being able to stare at death in the face was a little overwhelming—even for a man of great faith like him.

I remember watching his second last vlog and thinking that he sounded almost discouraged and despondent; he seemed to be really struggling to accept that God may not eventually heal him. This both surprised and encouraged me.

It surprised me, because I had assumed that he would be 100 percent settled in his heart by this time, that his time was drawing to a close. But it also encouraged me, because his complete honesty about his desire to be healed showed how even great men of faith had their “moments”. But, finally, it is what he said at the end of the video—without any hint of bitterness in his voice—that I would always remember: “But if it shouldn’t be Your will, Your sovereign will at the end of the day, then I trust You, and I love You anyway . . .”

And I believe that that is exactly how Nabeel would want all those who are grieving over his death to respond: to completely trust God and love God regardless of the outcome. May Nabeel’s life and death inspire us to devote our lives to Jesus for the rest of our days, so that like the Apostle Paul and Nabeel, we can say with confidence at the end of our lives, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7)

Dunkirk: Searching For The Way Home

Photo taken from Official Trailer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Written By Caleb Young, Australia

What would you do to survive? And to what lengths would you go to save others?

These are the questions at the core of Dunkirk, an action-packed thriller of a war film based on real-life events at the French port town of Dunkirk during World War II.

Forced to the beaches of Dunkirk by the Nazi invasion of France, some 400,000 Allied—mainly British—troops were stranded. England was only 26 miles away across the English Channel but British Prime Minister Winston Churchill thought that no more than 40,000 men could be rescued—until a nationwide flotilla of military and civilian vessels brought some 334,000 men home.

The unending tension, immersive soundscape, unique storytelling, masterful filmmaking, and the extraordinary ensemble cast are just a few of the factors that make this an incredible cinematic experience and the best big-budget film of the year.

But as I consider my own Christian worldview, I realize that the film also speaks to how we treat the message of the saving power of Jesus’ sacrifice.

(Minor spoilers ahead.)

 

There Are Many People Who Need Saving

Just like on the beaches of Dunkirk back in 1940, there are desperate people all around us who are living in fear, searching for a way to escape. Just like the young soldiers Tommy and Gibson in the film who masquerade as medics to get on board a transport ship for the wounded, many people take measures into their own hands and put on masks to feel safe and protected. However, just as the transport ship in the film eventually sinks, the false sense of protection that the world offers will not save anyone.

 

We Need to Show Them the Way Out

In Dunkirk, the characters of Mr. Dawson, along with his teenage son Peter and deckhand George, know that their private boat—together with hundreds of other small boats—along the English coast are the key to saving the soldiers at Dunkirk. However, that knowledge alone will not save those men. They have to sail across the English Channel and show them their salvation. As Christians, we know “the way, the truth, and the life” that will save those around us. However, keeping that knowledge to ourselves will not help anyone. We must purposefully search out opportunities to share this amazing news with others.

 

Sharing the Good News with Others Isn’t Always Easy

The journey across the English Channel is a difficult one for Mr. Dawson, Peter, and George. Just like all the civilian volunteer vessels, they face the threat of German submarines and enemy aircraft throughout their entire journey. With uncertainty at every point, the sailors who went to Dunkirk needed bravery, determination, and even sacrifice to save those desperate souls across the sea.

Sharing the salvation that Christ offers to the world isn’t an easy task either. We also have an enemy working hard to weaken our faith and cause us to turn back. And yet, it is important that we face the difficult task like the sailors in Dunkirk did, with courage and fortitude—ready to give sacrificially to save others.

 

Human beings are prepared to go to incredible lengths to survive. The Dunkirk film is a great example of the resilience of the human spirit. But resilience alone doesn’t always save us; we humans cannot save ourselves from our own sinful nature. The beautiful thing about the gospel is that it doesn’t depend on our own strength. Just like the boats that saved hundreds of thousands at Dunkirk, Jesus is our lifeboat: all we have to do is jump in. For those of us who are already saved, let us tell others of this free salvation that we can have in Christ.

The story and scope of Dunkirk is awe-inspiring and will lead movie-goers on an intense, action-packed ride as you experience the fear and bravery of those at Dunkirk. But as you enjoy this remarkable cinematic masterpiece, may you also be inspired to bring the salvation we know in Christ to those around us who are in need of saving.

 

Chester Bennington’s death: Numbing the pain is not the same as healing it

Written By Priscilla G., Singapore

It was just one of many suicides among celebrities. But the death of Chester Bennington, the frontman of American rock band Linkin Park, struck a chord among many fans of my generation.

The 41-year-old was found dead in his home two days ago (July 20), on the birthday of his close friend Chris Cornell. Media reports say Bennington’s suicide is similar to that of Cornell, the former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman, who also hanged himself two months ago.

The news triggered memories of the rasp in Bennington’s voice on songs like “Numb” and “Somewhere I Belong”, which captured the angst I felt as a teenager. Millions of people felt the same way—the music video of “Numb” has had more than 560 million views since it was posted in 2007.

I remember particularly liking that song, which is about the frustration of failing to meet people’s expectations, when I was 14 years old.

I was a head prefect in my primary school when I was 12, and I was very disappointed when I failed the probation to become a (normal) prefect in my secondary school. Becoming a little more rebellious seemed like a cool idea, although I was really more of a closet rebel with angst that I kept to myself. The “Numb” lyrics also expressed how I felt towards my father, whose words typically came in the form of scoldings or instructions instead of encouragement or concern.

I’ve become so numb, I can’t feel you there / Become so tired, so much more aware / I’m becoming this, all I want to do / Is be more like me and be less like you”. I thought of my father’s weaknesses as I sang that last line, about wanting to “be more like me and be less like you”.

But all the times I screamed out the chorus could not drown out the voice of God in my heart. Towards the end of that year, I rededicated my life to Jesus.

Shortly after, I stopped listening to Linkin Park’s songs, because I grew to realize that the message in many of their songs did not align with Christian values. The last line in the “Numb” chorus suggests self-centeredness, pride and an attitude of ‘I am better than you’ towards authority figures whom we disrespect. The song’s suggestion to numb emotional hurts is also not helpful.

To numb something is to ‘deprive of feeling or responsiveness’. But to be able to feel pain is to be able to sense that something is wrong, and that ability is important. Without pain sensors in our body, a person’s hand on a stove could be burning without him even realizing it. As American Christian author Philip Yancey, writes in his book, Where is God When It Hurts?: “By definition, pain is unpleasant, enough so to force us to withdraw our fingers from a stove. Yet that very quality saves us from destruction. Unless the warning signal demands response, we might not heed it.”

Having read about Bennington’s life from media reports, I see a man who was in pain. My own experiences cannot begin to compare with his, but it seems that he didn’t deal with it in the best way.

From the age of seven or eight, he was frequently molested by an older friend till he was 13. His parents divorced when he was 11. His first marriage ended in divorce in 2005. His struggles with drug and alcohol addiction inspired some of Linkin Park’s top hits, but did not end despite the band’s success.

Bennington said in an interview in 2009: “I have been able to tap into all the negative things that can happen to me throughout my life by numbing myself to the pain, so to speak, and kind of being able to vent it through my music.” Bennington added earlier this year: “If it wasn’t for music, I’d be dead. 100 per cent.”

While venting negative emotions through music or other avenues (such as drawing, poetry, or running) may be better than bottling all the feelings inside, it doesn’t result in a complete healing of emotional wounds.

Numbing pain is like using fingers to plug the holes in a leaking water bottle: the leaks stop temporarily, but it is pressurizing (literally) to keep plugging those holes, and all this does not address the ultimate problem.

If you are feeling broken, know that God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). Broken cisterns that cannot hold water will not help, but the fountain of living water (Jeremiah 2:13) will. As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

I pray that you will find the true source of comfort and joy.

 

Photo credit: Kristina_Servant via Foter.com / CC BY

5 Lessons from A Family Feud

Photo from Yahoo


Family disputes are common. In fact, I see them happening in my own family all too often, whether it is over minute or important matters. But over the past few weeks, one particular family feud in Singapore has captured the attention of many in my country—and perhaps around the world too.

The conflict, which erupted over social media on June 14, concerns allegations of abuse of power by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, made by his two younger siblings over the fate of their late father’s house at 38 Oxley Road.

Yesterday afternoon (July 3), PM Lee formally addressed this issue in Parliament, where he defended the actions he took following the death of his father, Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, in March 2015, and allowed Members of Parliament to question him.

Like many Singaporeans, I have been following this saga closely. And I’ve been both shocked and sad to see this happening in a family that I deeply respect and hold in high regard.

Without getting into a debate over who is right or wrong, I can see some personal lessons to be learned from this issue. What this dispute has shown me is that all humans are prone to conflict—regardless of how clever, powerful, or well-regarded we are.

This applies just as much to Christians. Though we all belong to the family of God, we have our fair share of conflict too. When challenged, our natural instinct is to fight back and vindicate ourselves. But most of the time, such encounters don’t end well. In my church, I have seen members leaving as a result; disputes can also lead to a split in the church.

So how should Christians respond when we don’t see eye-to-eye with each other? Here are five ways in which I believe we can respond to conflict within the family of God.

 

1. Recognize the need for resolution

God dislikes conflict. When we were at odds with God because of our sin, He made the first move for us to be reconciled—and He paid a hefty price for it, by sending His own Son Jesus to die on the cross to redeem us.

In the same way, God doesn’t want us to be at odds with anyone in the church. He wants us to be reconciled with others. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

Will we make an effort to resolve our differences because it pleases God—even if we don’t feel like it?

 

2. Exhibit self-control

When we feel hurt by others, it is natural to lash back. But we have to be careful not to allow our emotions to get the better of ourselves so that we act on impulse. God calls us to exercise self-control, which is one attribute of the fruit of the Spirit. Practising self-control means taking charge of our thoughts and attitudes so that they do not dictate our actions and lead us to behave in a way that displeases God.

The next time we get into a conflict, will we react calmly (Proverbs 29:11)?

 

3. Have an attitude of humility

Philippians 2:3-4 tells us to “value others above yourselves”. It is a challenging instruction because it means we have to put our pride and our interests aside. But Jesus has shown us examples of humility which we are called to imitate. While He was equal with God, He chose to forsake that privilege by becoming a human, being wronged, and finally dying for us in a humiliating manner. If Jesus cared merely about himself, none of us would ever be reconciled with God.

When we humble ourselves before others, we can take heart that God is pleased, for “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6).

Even though we may look foolish to the world, are we willing to be wronged for the sake of reconciliation?

 

4. Take time to listen and empathize

Taking time to listen and empathize can seem extremely difficult to do in the heat of the moment. But what this simply means is to be willing to understand how the other party has been hurt.

Fools are described as those who “find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2). Instead, we are called to listen before answering (Proverbs 18:13).

Will we put aside our prejudices and hurt to truly listen and understand the other party?

 

 5. Show love

Above all, as a family of God, we are commanded by the Lord to love one another as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). It is one of His two greatest commandments.

When we show love to others in times of conflict, we are able to stand united as a family of Christ and show the world that Jesus is a God of love. And we can take heart that God is with us when we gather to resolve the conflict, peaceably in love (Matthew 18:20).

Are others able to see Jesus through the way we respond to conflict?

 

The way to resolve a conflict is not by trying to win the fight or prove that we are right. It’s by responding in love and showing Christ in our response.

One statement that PM Lee made yesterday stood out: “At the end of the day, we are brother and sister, and we are all our parents’ children.”

I couldn’t agree more. At the end of the day, we are all God’s children, seeking to please the same Father.