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Crying Over Nabeel Qureshi

Screenshot taken from YouTube

I never thought I would cry over a complete stranger. But the death of a man whom I have never met had me tearing up a few times this week.

Last night, it happened again while I was watching the live stream of Christian apologist and author Nabeel Qureshi’s memorial service. Hearing two of his mentors, apologist Ravi Zacharias and Rice University chemistry professor Jim Tour, recount their time with the 34-year-old and his love for Jesus as well as his non-Christian family, had me welling up in tears.

Perhaps it was because the tributes were heartfelt and heart-breaking, or because it felt like I actually knew him personally. I bought Nabeel’s book two years ago, and have been following his progress since he first announced that he had advanced stomach cancer. Whichever reason it was, Nabeel has certainly made an impact on my life—as well as the lives of many others.

Here was a man who centered his entire life on Jesus and the gospel even though it meant turning his back on the people he loved most dearly—his family, who were staunch Muslims. Not only that, he went on to proclaim the good news of Christ, through talks and books—such as New York Times Bestseller Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus—despite threats to his safety and relentless criticism from those who considered him an apostate.

So many, including myself, were shocked that God would take him home so early on in his earthly life. Like most people, I couldn’t help but wonder, Why? Why now, when he was at the peak of his ministry? Why now, when he had just started a family? Why now, when the world needs gifted and passionate communicators like him to build bridges with the Muslim community?

Though none of the answers that have been circulating online can fully answer these questions, a post I stumbled on provides a deeply encouraging and helpful perspective. It was written by Nabeel’s colleague, the North American Director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). In a beautiful tribute to his dear friend, Abdu Murray wrote:

Ravi Zacharias, who loved Nabeel deeply, has written about him in a secular news source. Thousands who had never heard Nabeel or the gospel he loved to preach have now been exposed to Jesus’s life-changing message. People have seen Nabeel’s steely faith remain steelier yet in the face of death. They have seen the “peace that passes all understanding,” as the Bible calls it, in Nabeel’s voice. And they are encouraged to face difficulty with grace. A deaf world is roused through the megaphone of pain to hear the message that God has overcome the troubles of the world through Jesus. Nabeel was a megaphone for that message in his life and he is a megaphone for that message in his passing.

 If not for anything, Nabeel, who made a significant impact during his life, continues to make an impact in his death. Many have come to know of him, his books—and his God—after hearing about his life and death over the past week. I believe Nabeel’s legacy will continue in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Of course, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Nabeel is no longer with us. We will miss him dearly. But while his passing may seem like a huge loss, let us not forget that he is in a far better place today. And let’s not mourn without hope—for we have the full confidence that God will continue to raise up men of great faith to continue His kingdom work. Just as God can raise up a devout Pharisee like the Apostle Paul and an ex-Muslim like Nabeel to become effective ambassadors for Him, He can—and He will—continue to convict the hearts of men in His own time and way.

Poem: The Hope That Lifts Me Up

THE HOPE THAT LIFTS ME HIGH TITLE

Written By Phoebe Raymundo, Philippines

Every day I call to you
Every day You answer my cry.
I take refuge in You and You comfort me
Then wipe the tears from my eyes.

No matter how deep these wounds cut
Or how many times I’ve fallen down,
You are the hope that lifts me high
And in my heart, Your name resounds.

Click on the image or click here to download.

THE HOPE THAT LIFTS ME HIGH

 

Artist Feature | Phoebe Raymundo

Why do I create?

For this reason: I do what I do because I owe everything to Christ! He is the reason for my being.
My name is Phoebe and I am a 24-year-old multimedia designer born and raised in Manila, Philippines. I was blessed to be born into a Christian family but it took a couple of rough bumps on the road during my time in school before I learned to fall in love with Christ again.

Photography was my first love, but I was encouraged to widen my boarders by taking up multimedia arts in college. Out of the many skills I’ve tried to master, hand-lettering was the one that felt like home. It very quickly became something I am passionate about not only because of the art itself, but because of the messages I am able to convey with it.

I draw inspiration from my own experiences and emotions hoping they point others to Jesus so that they may also experience fullness of life in Him.

Please don’t jump, there’s hope

Written By Leslie Koh, Singapore

I was just about to leave for work when a policeman knocked on my door. “Sir, do you know of any elderly woman living along this floor?”

Behind him, a single stool stood next to the railing separating the flats on my floor from the ground, 10 floors below. It didn’t belong to my neighbor. Several policemen were stretching a white tape across the narrow common corridor in front of me. It didn’t take much to guess what had happened. In the old days, my housing estate was a popular spot for suicides; in those days, few buildings were this “tall”.

“Actually . . . most of the people here are elderly,” I told the cop. Then my thoughts went to my immediate neighbor. I glanced at her windows, just two feet from me. But to my relief, the policeman peeked through, turned to me, and nodded. “No, she’s in there.”

Then, another thought. A neighbor a few doors down had been rather depressed after suffering a disability. But I spotted his door opening in the distance, as policemen went down the row, knocking on door after door. His thin hands emerged. Another wave of relief.

The policeman then asked me if I minded looking at a picture of her face, to see if I recognized her. I didn’t.

The woman had probably come from another block in the estate, and likely planned this in advance. She had brought her own stool, and had chosen to jump from the quietest stretch of corridor; the other part faced another block, and she would have been spotted. My block was also one of the quietest ones in the neighborhood.

There was little else I could do. I walked out of my home, glancing over the railing along the way to take in the sight of a pitiful covered bundle lying on a concrete parapet, 10 floors below.

I nodded to the policeman, ducked under the crime-scene tape, and took a lift to the ground. As I walked out of the estate, I was engulfed by a wave of sadness. I didn’t know the woman, but my heart went out to her. In an ageing estate populated mostly by elderly folk, it wasn’t difficult to guess why she had dragged a stool to my block of flats, taken the lift to the highest floor, climbed onto it, and hurled herself over the railing.

Perhaps she didn’t have a family. Perhaps she wasn’t close to them or felt abandoned. Perhaps she was told about an incurable disease. Perhaps she felt that she had nothing left to live for. No love, no purpose . . . only loneliness and the certain prospect of years of emptiness stretching ahead. Nothing but hopelessness.

Nothing left to live for. No hope.

Death would have seemed to be the only escape, the only relief.

If only my wife or I had happened to come out the door when she was there. We could have stopped her. If only we—or someone—had a chance to tell her: Please, don’t jump. There’s hope.

Hope. Sometimes, it’s the only reason to go on living. When you’ve lost everything, and there’s nothing left to look forward to. When nothing is going right, and things don’t look as if they’re ever going to get any better.

What stops us from taking the only way out? What stops us from going to the highest building, from taking a handful of sleeping pills?

Hope. Hope that somehow, somewhere, things may eventually get better. Hope that amid the loneliness, there’s someone out there who still cares for us and who will tell us, “Hey, you mean a lot to me. Don’t go, I need you.” Hope that in the desperation of our current situation, someone will come along to stretch out a helping hand, give us a comforting hug, and say, “Don’t worry, I’m here with you. I’ll walk with you.”

Only one person can give us this hope. Only one person can promise us that he’ll be there with us, every step of the way. Only one person can keep up that promise, because he will never be too busy to listen to us. Only one person will never fail us. Only one person could say to us with utmost confidence, “Don’t worry, I’m in control. I know your situation, and I know what to do. I know what you need.”

That person is Jesus. Having once lived as a man, He knows exactly how we feel. Our depression. Our loneliness. Our hopelessness. As the Son of God, He has the ultimate power to handle our situation. He knows what comfort and encouragement we need, and He will be able to give it to us. Some of us will still have to live through our challenging circumstances, but we’ll have the complete assurance that He’s walking alongside us—every day, every hour, every minute. And, the most important of all, we’ll be able to go on in life with this knowledge: Jesus loves me. I matter to him. I mean the world to him—so much so that He died to save my soul. He has a purpose for me. He placed me here for a reason. He wants me to live for him.

When there’s absolutely nothing left to live for, when we’ve lost everything, we still have one thing. Jesus gives us hope. Hope to live. Hope to believe.

If you’re feeling hopeless, if you’ve given up on life, if you’ve taken a stool and are heading for the top floor of a block near you, stop. Please stop. There’s someone out there who loves you. Jesus loves you.

Should Christians be Optimistic or Cynical?

Written By M.D. Valley, Africa

In my earlier years, I constantly swung between being optimistic and cynical. Whenever I wanted something desperately, I would fix my mind on it and pour my 110 percent into it, along with a few prayers.

But whenever things didn’t work out my way, I would react like a spoilt child who didn’t get the candy she asked for. In those moments, overwhelmed by disappointment—and sometimes, resentment toward God—I would tell myself that it was better to be a cynic than an optimist. After all, I figured, optimism didn’t seem to pay off.

A friend of mine shared that he gives his best in everything he does, but keeps failure as a viable option. His reasoning was this: expecting the worst protects one from too much disappointment when things don’t work out.

But not for me. In my case, whenever things didn’t work out, I would be haunted by thoughts that maybe my wishes would have come true if I been a bit more optimistic. After all, if the blind man hadn’t cried out to Jesus to have mercy on him and heal his blindness, maybe Jesus would have walked on by. If he had sat back wallowing in his disability and believing that Jesus wouldn’t care and that there was no hope for him, then he would not have been healed (Luke 18: 35-42).

Over time, I realized that the root of our unhappiness—regardless of whether we are the cynical or optimistic type—is usually the same: we want something but we don’t get it. So how do we address the root problem?

The simple answer is hope.

Czech writer and philosopher Vaclav Havel once said that “hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out”.

The ultimate difference between hope and optimism is that the former is rooted in a deep trust in God. It is an assurance that God’s will would be done, regardless of the outcome. Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That came before praying for our daily bread (Matthew 6:9-13). It was something that Jesus himself demonstrated at the most painful point of His ministry on earth.

In the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46), Jesus faced the reality of His impending death on the cross. But though the prospect of what lay ahead of Him distressed Him to the point where His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44), He did not abide by His will but by God’s will.

To be honest, trusting God to the point of death is no easy feat. The human reflex is to flee from pain and sacrifice. A friend of mine once held a job that did not honor God, and she was restless in her spirit. She knew that if she quit that job, she would have no income to support her child and herself. She had no family support in the country she resided in and being an immigrant, it would be particularly difficult for her to secure another job.

But it came to a point where she knew she could not continue to dishonor God by her choice of career. So she took a bold leap of faith and quit. The first month went by and there were no offers and no interviews, but she hoped, and had faith. Three months later, a recruiter called her and offered her a better job that would sponsor her work visa and grant her child support.

I have since learned to change my prayer from “I want this and that” to “let your perfect will be done”. I’ve learned not to be optimistic but rather to have faith, to persevere, and to hope—in God.

Just a few years ago, I found myself in a job that was not what I had prayed for. At the time, I could not understand why God wanted me there. It was grueling work; my boss was so difficult that no one could work with him except me. After two years, however, God gave me a new job that was even better than what I had initially prayed for. Ironically, I was selected for that job because of my experience in my previous job—the one I had disliked. I realized that good always comes out of every circumstance no matter how difficult the situation is, and this truth has given me peace.

I have come to realize that God always answers our prayers with what is good for us (Rom 8:28), even though what we hope for may not come to pass in the particular way we envision it. He gives us what we need—and not necessarily what we want.