Tag Archives: teaching

Cross Examination (3) – Are Muslims Better Followers of Jesus than Christians?

The first to speak sounds right – until the cross-examination begins. (Proverbs 18:17)

This is the second part of a series examining some of the common claims Muslims make about Christianity. I am using a video I was referred to. This video is by a famous Muslim apologist named Zakaria Naik. He is supposed to be a doctor and an expert on the differences between Christianity and Islam. So far I have found his understanding of Christianity to be sadly lacking. Either he is being deliberately deceptive or he knows far less than he thinks he does.

Let me explain. First off, Naik makes the challenge for someone to quote from the Bible where Jesus makes a claim to be God. He says that if anyone can point to one, he will accept Christianity and leave Islam. I pointed to an abundance of scriptures in CE #1.

Second, Naik says that Christians claim to follow the teachings of Paul not Jesus when they say Jesus died on the cross for our sins. I showed that this is patently false. Time and again Jesus shows that He knew of His coming death and resurrection. Even more, Jesus Himself talked many times of the redemptive necessity of His coming sacrifice. See for yourself in CE #2.

Let us now continue on with the video:

Starting at four minutes in, Zakaria Naik makes his third claim that Christians are not following the teachings of Jesus like Muslims do. He mentions things like eating pork and drinking wine and points to multiple scriptures:

Ephesians 5:18 – Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit
Proverbs 20:1 – Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
Leviticus 11:7-8 – The pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.
Deuteronomy 14:8 – The pig is also unclean; although it has a divided hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses.
Isaiah 65:2-5 – All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imagination, a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of impure meat; who say, ‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!’ Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.
Luke 2:21 – On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. (Muslims are all circumcised but apparently most Christians aren’t.)

Naik then drops his accusatory bomb at about 4:50. I quote “If Christian means, ‘a person who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ’ (pbuh) I am proud to say, ‘we Muslims are more Christian than the Christians themselves.’ ”

Can somebody please say double standard? Naik just made a claim that Christians are following the teachings of Paul, not the teachings of Jesus. Not one minute further in, he goes and does the exact same thing Himself. Are Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in prohibiting pork quoting Jesus? Is Isaiah? Did Jesus write about alcohol in Proverb 20:1 or was that Solomon? What about Ephesians 5:18? Did Jesus write that or was it… wait for it… PAUL!?! For shame!

To be fair, Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day but that was something His parents did to Him, not His own teachings. Outside of mythology, we do not have any true words from Jesus until He is twelve years old and even that is merely a brief conversation (from which we can learn much)

So, about wine and pork, what did Jesus actually really say? Well, first of all his very first recorded miracle was turning water into wine for a wedding celebration. I am curious, if Jesus forbids it, why on earth would His very first miracle be putting such a great temptation (in abundant quantities) before them?

What about pork? Jesus doesn’t mention the food in particular but He does make a very strong statement about the concept in general:
Mark 7:18-23 – “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) [Jesus] went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Here is a fundamental statement Jesus is making that will be reiterated by Paul and other writers later on. What you do is far, far more important than what you eat or drink. Naik’s claim isn’t just false, it demonstrates that he entirely misses the point in focusing on foods rather than on lifestyle.

Now that we have that taken care of, the question still remains, what are the teachings of Jesus and who is following them better? Since I want to at least make an attempt to keep this short I will focus in on Jesus’ most famous sermon rather than going through everything He taught in the 80+ chapters the gospels write about Him. You can find this sermon in Matthew 5-7.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit… those who mourn… the meek… the merciful… the peacemakers… those who are persecuted… Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The Quran says, “And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do.” (8:39)
“Whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted on you and be careful (of your duty) to Allah and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).” (2:194)


Jesus says, “ For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

The Quran itself calls the Bible the “Books of God”, a “sign”, “light”, “guidance”, and a “mercy”. It commands us to follow it. (5:71, 7:156-157, etc) However common Muslim doctrine is that the Bible has been corrupted and changed and so it is no longer reliable. In making this claim are not Muslims calling Jesus a liar?


Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

There are 36 references to enemy (عَدُوٌّ) in the Quran. Any guess as to how many of those are in reference to loving, forgiving, or praying for them? No. The quran teaches to be on your guard against your enemies, do not slow up in pursuing to the death your enemies, and ultimately kill them all. (4:101-104, 8:12-15, etc)


Jesus says, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”

Do Muslims pray in private or do they gather together to all pray in one place? Do Muslims pray in their native language or are they commanded to all pray in Arabic?


Jesus says, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”

If the lifestyle and words of another prophet do not match up with the life and teachings of Jesus, does He not warn us to be on our guard against them?


Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

I agree with Zakaria Naik that there are many who claim to be Christians who are not actually following the teachings of Jesus. We all, Christians and Muslims and everyone else, fall so far short of our own standards let alone the standards Jesus puts forth. The question is, are we even making an effort to follow Him or are we simply justifying our failures while still performing our outward duties? Whether it is prophesying, driving out demons, and performing miracles, or if it is living up to the five pillars, it is not enough. Whether it is going to a church or attending a mosque, it is not enough. The true test is not in the appearance but in the heart. Like Jesus said back in Mark, it isn’t what is on the outside but what is in the heart that matters. Let us stop with the comparison game and look inward. Am I truly trying to follow after Jesus? Are you?


September Newsletter

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How Do You Stay Focused?

For much of July and August I had the honor to serve in two cities in southeast Turkey. I stayed most of the time in Gaziantep and worked as a volunteer in a school for refugees. I taught English and also worked with crisis counseling. For a couple days I also had the opportunity to head up to Suruc where I taught English with a local church there. In both places, nearly everyone I was working with were refugees out of the Syrian city of Kobani.

I have since returned to Istanbul and this past week was the first week all of the teachers had to be back in my school. About a third of the time there is some real preparation and planning for the coming school year. The remaining two thirds of the time we are enduring what I would call TED Talk type inspiration. The biggest *joy* of it all for me is that all of this is happening in Turkish. As bored as the other teachers are, I have the added burden of trying to translate the little i can understand into English. When I am truly focused I can follow the basic flow of the conversation and am picking up maybe a third of what is actually said. The problem is, how do you stay focused. Eight hours of this, for five days straight makes it tough to stay on task and it is much easier to pull up a phone app or grab a book and completely zone out. When that happens I understand nothing.

What I have experienced this week is also what I think most of us regularly experience in our walk with God. The language of the Spirit is not our primary language and even in our best moments we can only comprehend “as through a glass darkly.” If we do not invest all of our attention to it, even that little we could grasp is completely gone. When we allow the daily grind of life to divide our attention we lose all chance of gaining anything from the Spirit. Like I have had to do this week, we need regular reminders to turn our eyes and ears and hearts back on to the things from which they are prone to wander.


From now through September 1st the monthly devotional Walking With the Beloved will be available on Amazon for free. This edition starts just after the Triumphal Entry and carries us beyond the Last Supper and everything else that happened in the Upper Room and goes halfway through John 14. Pick up your copy now:


The River Walk is closing in on being four years old. That means very soon I will be needing to renew my membership with wordpress and the domain name. If it has been a blessing to you and you would like to contribute towards its continued existence, you can donate here. Anything given above and beyond the cost of these renewals will go towards its promotion within the Muslim world.

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Earlier this week I was asked by someone at my school, “why don’t you become a Muslim?” In Turkey they have a game called Ear to Ear that is very similar to the game telephone that I played as a kid. I explained how when I read the Quran it did not feel reliable but rather the end product of a process very similar to that game. That was the opening to a conversation with three other teachers lasting a couple hours where pretty much every argument against Christianity I have ever heard was presented. Please pray that the discussion would be the first of many such good conversations this year. Please pray that God would continue to remove the mental and cultural barriers that prevent them from coming to truly know Him. Finally, please pray that I would be a positive representation to everyone in my school and community of who Jesus is.


War Tourism

It is not quite 4PM. It is also not quite 40 degrees. For you Americans reading this, the temperature is sitting at a little over 100 degrees. I have just got on a bus (a van, really) that will take me back to Gaziantep. I have spent less than two days here and now I watch as the driver weaves his way down streets that are more dust and mud and potholes than they are brick and pavement. The buildings we pass, there is no adequate way to describe it to someone who was born and raised in the sheltered West like I was. many of these buildings are in some stage of construction or destruction, but they rarely have any workers doing anything to them to complete the process. Probably one in three of the rest of the buildings are windowless and unfurnished and without utilities. That does not necessarily mean they are uninhabited.

We pass by a boy, maybe 12… maybe 14, riding on a flat wooden cart being drawn by a single brown horse. Behind him on that cart is a hodgepodge collection of used clothing and shoes. I wonder where he is going with his goods. I wonder where I am going. I know I am heading back to Gaziantep and in a week from there I will be heading to Istanbul. But where am I going really?

This past week I spoke with a German teacher who has spent most of the past five years in Gaziantep. She started working there before Arab spring and before that movement plunged Syria into chaos. She was there long before ISIS was a factor on the world stage. In other words, she was there before millions of Syrians fled their homes that had become the backdrop for a multi-front civil war clusterf**k. Now, five years later not only has Gaziantep and this entire region been flooded with refugees, it has also seen a huge influx of foreigners. Some are with the UN but most are war tourists. Whatever their stated reason for being there, what they really want is to be where the action is. Just not too close. There are few, if any, war tourists in Suruç. Except us, that is.

I was visiting the city along with three others. One was an Asian man from Singapore. Another was a black man, a student, from South Africa. Then there was me, the white guy from Upstate NY. We all came together from Gaziantep. The three of us met another Asian from NY who was busy about the Father’s work in another part of Turkey until the police shut that down. He is now visiting Suruç to see about doing it there, but I don’t think he will stay.

The first day we were there I taught English for about two and a half hours. The other two who came with me watched. Virtually all of my students that day were junior high or high school aged Syrian kids from Kobani. The second day both of the other two taught for about thirty minutes and then I did a wrap up/review. At the end of that review we were talking about emotions and I asked the students to give me examples of what makes them happy, sad, angry, etc. I then used some of those examples to explain why it is important to be a friend to others and also to rely on your friends when we are hurt, scared or sad. However, there might be times when those friends are unavailable. We can have a friend who will always be there and who will never let us down. That friend is Jesus.

I couldn’t hit it hard because all but three of those twenty-five or so students there that second day were Muslim. There is a fine line to walk between presenting the gospel and causing trouble for those Christians who will continue caring and loving on those others long after us war tourists have gone back home. They have to stay there and live there and risk the retaliation that might come from careless things we have said. They do not have the option of getting on a bus and taking off when their “tour” is up. As the Bruno Mars song “Count On Me” played at the end of that class, I could only pray that the little I said would spark God sized conversations between those Christians and their Muslim friends. Was it enough?

I am now passing by the small city of Nizip. In Suruç there are a couple dozen Christians and my host could tell you who each of them is. Suruç is a city of a little over 100,000 people. Wikipedia tells me that Nizip has about 130,000. I wonder if that number includes the Syrian refugees in a camp right outside this town. I also wonder if there is a church in Nizip and if it also has as many as 20-30 people attending. I doubt it.

Next June I will be leaving Istanbul and moving in this direction. God willing it will be a move I make for the rest of my life. When I come not as a guest but as a resident, as an immigrant, will I be viewed as a war tourist? For how long? How long must I be living here before they stop viewing me as a yabanci… a foreigner? Will it ever happen? I know that this is my purpose. It is what I was created for and I cannot wait to spend a lifetime, rather than just a month here. Until then I can only hope that we war tourists can do a little more good than the harm we are causing. I just passed a sign that says we are thirty kilometers from Gaziantep. I am thirty kilometers from home.