What Would Jesus Say to a Muslim?

It seems a bit presumptuous to assume I could know what Jesus would say to a Muslim today.  After all, there are 3.3 million followers of Islam living in the U.S. today. That’s equivalent to 1% of our population. And, there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. So how could I know what Jesus would say to a Muslim?

Many of us who read this blog don’t know much abouCross-in-the-foreground-the-Dome-of-the-Rock-shrine-in-the-Old-City-of-Jerusalem-in-the-background_larget who they are and what Muslims believe other than what we see on TV or read in the news. That’s why I am writing this series on Islam. I want to help us become better informed and better equipped for the world we live in as followers of Jesus.

That brings me back to this crucial question of what Jesus would say to a Muslim, because the answer to this question gives us strong guidance for how Jesus invites us to engage this world we live in.

What would Jesus say to a Muslim?

The responses to this question generally fall within one of three different categories. The first is characterized by the main idea that Muslims, Jews and Christians all believe in the same God. When a Muslim says ‘There is no God but Allah’, they are proclaiming loyalty to the same Unique, One and only true God that Jews and Christians proclaim. The term ‘Allah’ is the Aramaic equivalent to the word we use in English for ‘God’. So, people who think of Islam in this way would see Jesus saying the same thing to a Muslim, as He would say to the rest of us who follow him; “I no longer call you servants…instead I call you friends,” Jn 15:15. Thus, Islam is part of the one big family of faith and is fundamentally a religion of peace. It’s just another way of worshipping God. That’s one view.

There is a second category of responses, which swings to the complete opposite end of the spectrum. This view is characterized by the main idea that Muslims worship a false god whose ultimate agenda is to force the world into submission using whatever means possible, including war and acts of terror. The only way to safety and security for the rest of us is to either build a wall to keep them out or launch an all out war to wipe them out. So from this perspective, Jesus would tell Muslims they are children of the devil and that He has come to destroy the works of the devil; 1Jn 3:18. Islam is a religion of violence and all Muslims are terrorists. That’s the opposite end of the spectrum of perception regarding followers of Islam among Christians.

While the first group is more progressive and tolerant, the second group is more militant and oppositional. One tells us “we are all the same” and the other tells us to “keep ‘em out or wipe ‘em out.” It is interesting to me that the progressives in Jesus’ day were called Sadducees and the militants were called Zealots. Neither group could get behind the Kingdom of God way of life Jesus announced. Instead, they would ultimately join forces to crucify him. Think about that for a moment.

Jesus is Lord of the third way. When presented with a forced choice between two binary options, Jesus always chose something different. The third way in this Christian conversation is the view that Islam is an incomplete religion. Sadly, Muslims do not have a full understanding of the One true God they worship. There are over 90 names for ‘Allah’ in Islam, but none of them conveys the intimate relationship with Abba Father that is characteristic of God in the Christian faith. Muslims also do not have full assurance of salvation because their faith is based on obedience and good works rather than the ultimate work of Christ who paid the debt for all our sins on the cross. So what would Jesus say to a Muslim? We are called to look to scripture for our answers. “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest… take my yoke on you and you will find rest for your souls,” Mt 10.28,29. “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me,” Jn 14.6.

Jesus is the fullness of God incarnate in human form, Col. 1.15,19.  He is the Universal Lord of an uncompromising Gospel and the one and only cure to our sin problem, Col 1.13-14, Col 1.19-22, Mt 26.28, Acts 4.12, Eph 2.8   Those who place their trust in Him are made new and have a secure hope for eternity, Jn 3.16, 2 Cor 5.17; Ro, 6.23.

Understanding Islam as an incomplete religion gives us clear guidance as followers of Jesus. The One, Almighty, Compassionate, Gracious, and Loving God has revealed the fullness of His grace and truth in Jesus Christ. This wonderful good news is for everyone, including Muslims. Yes, some Muslims are extreme terrorists and have a warped, not incomplete, understanding of God. But they are a very small minority and are the reason many Muslims are abandoning Islam in the Middle East and here in the U.S..

Muslims are people: people we are called to love, not fear. People we are called to welcome and seek relationship with, not to exclude.  People who need a Savior and His name is Jesus. So what can you do today?  Begin praying for the salvation of your Muslim neighbors. Ask God to give you a Muslim friend. Pray that God will send followers of Jesus to show and tell the Good News of the Gospel to Muslims in places where they have no access to the Gospel. Find out more about one of the ministries Belpres supports to share Jesus with Muslims.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” Rom 10.13-14.

Christmas in July–A Matt Talbot Center Tradition

Imagine you are ten years old again, and Christmas is a few weeks away. You live with your mom and your little sister in downtown Seattle, sometimes in a rented room and sometimes on the streets. You are familiar with cold, with wet clothes, with hunger in your belly and the cries of your sister at night. She’s afraid of the dark, of the bugs and the vermin idownloadn the room, and of being left alone while your mom is out. You attend 3rd grade and all your friends are excited about Christmas. They talk about presents and Santa and all the food and candy they will get. Some of your friends are like you. They know that there won’t be presents this year, and that Christmas dinner will be at one of the shelters nearby. Your sister talks about a new doll that she’s hoping Santa will bring her. You secretly hope for a new jacket and a toy, but you’re old enough now to know the reality of your mom’s life and that presents are not something she can provide this year.

Now imagine a wonderful Christmas Party at Matt Talbot Center in downtown Seattle. There’s a huge pile of presents, delicious smells and best of all, Santa Claus! Children, like the two described above, line up around the block with their parents as they wait their turn to come inside, sit on Santa’s lap, receive a present, cookies and delicious foods. Someone says “Welcome!” and “Come on in!” Volunteers from all over Seattle are dressed in holiday sweaters helping kids and their parents to feel hope and joy again. Throughout the party, everyone points to the reality that Jesus came to earth as a baby to reconcile humanity to God. Happy laughter, hugs and smiles are everywhere.

In the midst of July sunshine, blue skies and lake-side barbeques, it might seem a bit incongruous to be thinking about Christmas. After all, we have five months before the Big Day. And, if you are like me, I put off thinking about anything related to Christmas until the fall. Longtime BelPres mission partner Matt Talbot Center, on the other hand, are long-range planners when it comes to Christmas knowing that the needs of children and families in the urban core are intensified during the holidays. Every year they host a Christmas Party for families in the downtown area. What began as a small gathering 31 years ago has grown into a huge event, with last year seeing 1000 children coming through their doors the second Saturday in December. With homelessness at a crisis level in Seattle, they are expecting another huge celebration this year.

Matt Talbot Center has an amazing presence in downtown Seattle. Founded in 1985 by a small group of businessmen with a vision for solutions for homelessness in Seattle, MTC has evolved into a place for those who are serious about living drug and alcohol free lives. Members are ministered to through counseling, drug and alcohol treatment services, Bible study and prayer, housing and employment assistance, and literacy training. MTC provides individuals and families with the opportunities they need to overcome obstacles and disabilities that hinder self-sufficiency.

On July 24th, BelPres is hosting “Christmas in July” for Matt Talbot Center. During all morning services MTC will be present in the lobby to share about the ministry of MTC. BelPres members are invited to bring a gift card for MTC so that they can shop for Christmas gifts ahead of time for this year’s party on December 17th. With an annual cost of $20,000 to provide gifts for 1000 kids, gift cards to WalMart, Kohl’s, Target, Toys-R-Us, Costco and Sam’s Club are perfect. Visa/MasterCard Gift Cards work well, too. Matt Talbot staff and volunteers will use the cards to purchase gifts for Santa to give out during the party. You will be helping them provide new clothing, toys and other gifts to needy families this Christmas!

Song in the Desert–Missionaries and Music

Our family attended the 11am Modern Worship Service this last Sunday, July 10. Our oldest son was the scripture reader, and with all of our kids middle and high school ages, that’s the place to be on Sunday mornings. It was a beautiful, moving service, full of worship. I love both worship styles at Bellevue Presbyterian Church, and very much recommend that everyone check out both Modern and Sanctuary worship this summer. Everyone involved is giving their best to our Father in praise, and I think it gives us a good idea of what to expect in heaven.

This Sunday, I didn’t bother to look at the order of worship, for some reason, so I was not prepared when Desert Song, a Hillsong United song started up. Back in 2008, when I first heard this song, we were still worshipping with the Wamena International Fellowship in Wamena, Indonesia. We were selling off all our worldly goods and preparing to move back to America after four years on the mission field with MAF. My heart was not ready to leave that place, though it was clear that God was sending us home.

It was the most heartbreaking time of my life. If you look at it on a map, Wamena is in the middle of the island of New Guinea, just North of Australia. But as the airplane flies, it’s much farther. Our usual flight route was Seattle>Taipei>Singapore>Jakarta>Bali>Jayapura (on the coast)>Wamena (in the highlands). That’s three days (THREE!) of flying. Google maps won’t even plot if for me. So when we were leaving there, I knew that if I ever went back, it was going to be a long, long distance into the future. I was heartbroken. All the friends I had made, the Indonesian ones, whom I would likely never see again. The Dutch, Swiss, New Zealander, Irish friends, whom I would likely never see again. And the American/Canadian friends, who might come to Seattle on furlough, but still, it would be a long time before I would get to see them again. And the culture, which I had come to love and understand. Not to mention the sense of failure that Ted and I, who had planned to be lifetime missionaries, felt at having our expected career—our calling–cut short. It was a confusing, emotionally, sad time for our whole family. God knew what was going on, but I often felt that I was wandering in the dark.

Then, we began to sing this song in worship:

This is my prayer in the desert
When all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides

This is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold

My "Produce Department"
My “Produce Department”

So refine me, Lord, through the flame

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

This is my prayer in the battle
When triumph is still on its way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I’ll stand

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve received I will sow

And I was heartbroken. I fell into this song and stayed there. For nearly a year I cried my way through this song. I was so grateful that when I returned to worship at BePres and the Modern Worship band started playing it. The words and music were my rock in the massive tumult of my soul.

I clung to the idea that through Jesus, I had the victory. That whatever the season of life, that I could praise God. I could have access to the certainty that God knew me, God cared for me, and that, as my desire was for his glory, I would know joy again.
So this last Sunday, as we gave God glory in this song once more, I wept, as I always have with this song. But eight years later, I am, by God’s grace, in a place of greater understanding of God’s heart for hurting people. For people who believe that God has one plan, but then he shows them a new, not always welcome plan. God loves those who serve him with their lives. God’s reasons for bringing us back were not clear to us for a very long time after our return. But we have a better idea of what God was doing then, now.

Missionaries who leave the field have a hard road to travel, almost always, back to whole life in their country of origin. My story, and the influence of the Desert Song in my journey back to wholeness in Christ, is only one of many. It is my hope that we would all stand in prayer with the missionaries in our church, and in our lives, no matter where they are in their mission journey. Pray that God would give our missionaries the strength to give him praise in every circumstance, as Job did when he said “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” –Job 2.10

God is for us, in every trial, in every joy, in every situation, God is for us. He is forming us to be more like his son, Jesus, which is our ultimate good. If we can rest in that truth, then we can indeed sing:

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

Racism is a Global Epidemic

This past March, I had the opportunity to visit one of our BelPres mission partners, Children of the Nations, COTNI, in the city of Baharona, Dominican Republic. The DR (Dominican Republic) is a Caribbean nation which lies on the eastern two-thirds island of Hispaniola. The nation of Haiti occupies the western side of the island. Much of what we know in social media and news about the island comes from Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake which killed over 46,000 people. The world’s nations responded by sending help to Haiti. Today, there is much skepticism about how much help the Haitian people actually received from the world’s governments and aid organizations. Many Haitians have fled to the DR in the hope of a better life.

The history between the countries goes back to colonial days when Spain and France sought control over the island. That political and cultural conflict eventually formed the two countries. In the early 20th century, both countries were relatively equal in economy and government. Today, however, it’s a different story: Haiti is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Children of the Nations (COTNI) established itself in the DR specifically to address the spiritual and poverty issues for displaced Haitians that live in the DR. Haitians are not considered of equal status and are denied citizenship, health care and education. Racial (or ethnic) discrimination is an accepted part of the Dominican Republic culture. My visit in March gave me a look at the living conditions of Haitians living in the DR. Each day we had the opportunity to visit different Batays. I made THIS video there.

A Batay is a village that has its history back in the sugar plantation days where Haitians were brought into the DR to work the sugarcane fields. Today, the sugarcane industry has lost its influence while the Batays continue to exist. Because of the extreme poverty in Haiti, illegal immigration continues to occur into the DR. Without citizenship, education, basic social services, and health care, life in the bateys is very difficult. There is generational racial discrimination for the Haitians living in the DR. COTNI has adopted 5 Batays in DR. I had the opportunity to visit each one. While the extreme poverty continues in the bateys, COTNI has come in to establish schools, health care systems, food programs, and spiritual life pathways for the families and children.

In the 20 years of COTNI being in country and building a foundation of hope and love, the lives of Haitian-Dominican Republic children & families have been changed. I got to witness this firsthand when I met a young college student, Carolina. See her story HERE. Carolina grew up in a batay, but through COTNI, was given the opportunity to go to school, get health care, and  she received the hope she has now in Christ. I will never forget the moment she shared when she was a child living off the streets, eating trash and having her stomach bloated because of the parasitic worms that she had living inside her. She is living testimony that each person is a child of God with inherent, infinite worth. COTNI through its Child Sponsorship program has given girls like Carolina hope for the future and a new life that helps defeat the generational racial discrimination that exists in the DR.

On the same trip I also had the opportunity to visit a potential new site where COTNI is scouting for its next area to support. We went to the border of Haiti and DR, where we experienced the worst poverty in the world. Refugee camps made up of trash, cardboard, anything that can be taken. Haitians trying to escape the poverty in their own country but unable to enter into the DR are stuck at the border. It truly was a life changing experience walking around the refugee camps. I made a short video, HERE.

As I reflect on the current news of #AltonSterling  and #PhilandoCastile, I am reminded that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope we have in reconciliation, peace, and love. Whatever you believe or understand about these two most recent cases, it is clear that there is a sense of racial injustice in America that needs addressing, and who better than the church, with our hope in Christ, to bring his love, peace, and reconciliation to this pressing issue? Racism is a global epidemic, not just local. We as followers of Christ need to respond both here in the Eastside, to events in our nation, and–as global Christians–throughout the world. We have the power and presence of God in us and through us, and we can help change the world. Church, let’s do this together! Jesus Christ is the hope of the world!

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.   -Galatians 3.28


Please join me in welcoming Rev. Annie Duncan as our new Executive Pastor.

The Executive Pastor/Director search team and I unanimously and enthusiastically recommended that Rev. Annie Duncan be nominated to the position of Executive Pastor, and on May 29th at the congregational meeting she was voted into the position.

I have been a part of many searches and this is one of the clearest calls I have ever seen. God spoke decisively. Annie’s strong faith in Jesus, her gifts in leadership and innovation along with her experience managing staff in her various roles here at BelPres and in the for-profit sector made her the search team’s #1 choice.

Annie has already been a gift to BelPres and I’m convinced she will be stellar in this role.

Please join me in congratulating Annie in her new role. I am excited for what God has in store for us.

In Christ,

Dr. Scott Dudley (more…)

Letter from the Editor

At some point during the year, I sit down and come up with a list of topics that I think people will want to write and read about in The Messenger for the upcoming year. Last year was no exception, but when I presented the topic list, my manager was insistent on having recovery as the theme of one issue. I was hesitant – it’s a very personal topic and I wasn’t sure how, or even if, people would respond in an open and real way.

I’ll admit, when the word recovery comes up, I immediately think of rehab and a drug or alcohol addiction. I’m fortunate this is not something I have much experience with in my own life so far. But as I was writing the prompts for our writers, God led me in another direction: (more…)

This Is Just Yours

I like to call myself a Medical Adventurer. It’s just another way of saying that I’m a 26-year-old with a lot of medical bills because, well, my doctors almost never know what’s wrong with me and I end up getting lots of tests.

My first “adventure” came when I learned that the Can-Can dance should actually be called the Shouldn’t-Shouldn’t. You know how the dance goes, I’m sure. Jump up, lifting one leg in the air, and then switch legs. It sounds simple enough, but if you’re a girl in fourth grade and you spend more time giggling with your Girl Scout Troop than focusing on jumping properly, you might land on your ankle sideways. Sure, I had a pretty good sprain, but what was really odd was that my ankle was so immediately swollen that my X-rays were difficult to read for the technicians. The sprain healed, but the swelling only got worse. We tried ice and elevation and went to so many doctors I can’t even remember them all. Nine months into this process, my Mom and I had a routine. Take Sarah out of school, bring her Gameboy so she has something to distract her from all the “I don’t knows” from her doctors, and go home with one less ounce of hope. On the last day of our search, the doctor’s assistant at Children’s Hospital took one look at my leg and said, “Oh, it sounds like you have lymphedema. Mind if I bring in a few doctors to help us confirm it for you?” (more…)

Finding Hope After Divorce

When I was going through my divorce I thought my life was coming to an end. I was devastated, heartbroken, humiliated, confused, and felt totally hopeless. The grief and the anger consumed me. I prayed; waiting anxiously for answers.

Although family and friends were compassionate and gave comfort, I didn’t think anyone really understood what I was going through or what I felt. I was new in town and had been shopping for a church home. It was spring and BelPres was on my list to attend and it wound up being the answer to one of my prayers. “Divorce Recovery Workshop” the sign read. I inquired and signed up, not sure if I really would attend. I didn’t want anyone to see the big “D” I was carrying. Then I thought, “No one knows me here; if it turns out to be a bad experience, I don’t have to go back.” (more…)

God Never Gives Up

In 2005 my wife, Linda, and I were church shopping, and we were running out of places to try. Then we remembered that we had attended a Christmas Eve service at BelPres a few years earlier and we decided to try BelPres again. Attending a large church would allow me to remain anonymous. I wasn’t looking for community. I just wanted to be able to come to church, and then go home.

That attitude was one I had held for a long time, and it said a lot about where I was in my relationship with God and others…and it wasn’t good. In my late twenties, after my first marriage had ended abruptly, God came in and fundamentally changed my life. I had the experience of “I once was blind but now I see.” Later, I met and married Linda—we celebrate our 37th anniversary this year—and began a radically new life. When I read the Bible, the words were alive, and when I prayed I felt God was listening and leading. I was a trained counselor and I felt God lead me to start a Christian counseling ministry. I was also teaching adult Sunday school and was part of leadership in our church. God and the church were at the center of our lives. But over time, that began to unravel. My counseling ministry collapsed, and I spent the next 25 years in a job that reduced me to an anxiety-ridden shell of a person. And in the midst of all that, we were devastated by the grief and loss of a long struggle with infertility. (more…)

New Horizons

Gasworks Park on a cold wintry day. My teenage daughter and I wandered through the open building of pipes and machinery on a lunch break. We noticed a wood pallet behind one machine. On closer inspection, we realized it was a windbreak; personal items were evident, as was someone asleep in a dark blue bag. We quickly backed away, half afraid and half not wanting to disturb this person in their “home.” Hearts saddened, we assumed it was an adult male, perhaps a veteran or someone mentally ill. Perhaps both. Neither of us considered that the person in that bag, hiding out from the cold, might be a teenager, someone my daughter’s age, a young girl. Homeless.

New Horizons’ staff and volunteers know that many teens are homeless on our city streets. The statistics are staggering. On their website, New Horizons reports the following: (more…)

Trauma and Recovery

At first glance, there was nothing outstanding about the way she looked. I stood behind a woman and her young family in a buffet line—all of us waiting to fill our plates. Nothing caught my eye until the woman turned toward me, making her full face visible, showing half her face unmarked and half seared with burn scars. An additional quick scan took in scars on the exposed parts of her right forearm and hands; she walked with a limp. I also noticed the easy manner the woman and family related to each other. In the seconds viewing the woman’s scars and her family, I imagined a story of trauma and recovery.

It is nearing ten years since I saw the woman in the buffet line, and while I never learned her story, I often think of her scars and how I came to see them: Hidden at first, then visible when she turned to full view. For this woman, a piece of her story was available for others to see and I’ve often wondered what people would look like if faces showed the many scars of traumas and pain experienced in daily living. Would scars serve as a reminder that pain from trauma and loss is not quickly or easily healed? Would we feel less isolated and alone in our pain, if it were easily seen on the outside? (more…)

Trusting God Through Adversity

I spent most of my life fighting to stay alive. Fighting adversities that had not only come into my life but also seemed to become my life. I grew up with alcoholic and abusive parents. I had been raped and raised a child as a result of that rape. I have been living with a severe illness for over six years that I should not have lived with past one year. There have been many times that I just wanted to quit; to give up and just let go. Sometimes I did just let go and found myself spiraling out of control. Over the years I have become strong in my faith and I have learned to just let go and let God take over. As I grow in my faith I am learning to trust God through adversity as well as the good times.

It is so easy to forget to say thank you for the little things in life. For the past year, I have learned to appreciate just the intake of a fresh breath, the smell of a flower, the sound of the wind whistling through the trees. To see my image in a mirror and be surprised that a smile is reflecting back at me. I have found joy and peace in my everyday life. I enjoy living each and every moment of my life. (more…)

One Dark Night

“God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”

One night while I was in graduate school, I awoke near midnight, having fallen into bed in a drunken state and passed out. On awaking, I sensed an extraordinary darkness surrounding me. Then I heard God speaking – he was very clear: “You are an alcoholic and you need help.”

I won’t detail my drinking history; it is sufficient to say that I had developed a habit of drinking a lot while managing to keep it a secret from most people. My close friend and housemate simply scoffed when I told her I was an alcoholic. She refused to believe it. And probably I wouldn’t have believed it either if God had not intervened. (more…)

Behind the Scenes with Robb McIvor

Close your eyes. Just take a moment and do it. You’ll like what you see and hear.  Remember when you were young and you’d be playing in the backyard or in your room studying and one of your parents would call you to dinner? If your name didn’t end with a vowel, they may have put one at the end, almost singing your name.

We’ve got a dynamite volunteer this month who understands what I’m talking about. His name is Robb McIvor. I’m guessing when he was called to dinner it may have been “Raaah-beeee.” Robb, by his own admission, said he was being called. In this case not for dinner by his parents, but to BelPres, by God. (more…)