Final of 2 parts
By Robert R. Schwarz
Introduction from Part 1: Men like the Rev. Eldor Richter you won't see on the 5 O'clock news or the cover of "People " magazine just because they have for 60 years been giving their heart to a church , making hospital calls, missing a night's sleep to comfort a widow at 3 a.m. and giving body and mind without cost to defending a heady book entitled "Comparing the Qur'an and the Bible " to hundreds of hard-nosed Muslims and Christians; nor, of course, do we normally lionize someone for simply being a 24-7 loyal husband or having with a reputation of never uttering profanity or telling an off-color joke—an attribute the pastor says he inherited from his father. Today, at 84, Rick is still treating human sorrow and proclaiming to the suffering , " God loves you, you know. "
Conversations with Muslims
Rick's reaction to the 2, 996 people killed at the World Trade Center in NYC and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 shook his soul . "I knew I needed to learn about the Islam religion and why 9/11 happened, " he emailed me . He began to earnestly study the Qur'an, and in 2006 he wrote the manual, or book , " The Qur'an and the Bible—a Comparison. " He told me , "My goal was to draw the Muslim and others to Christ by the undeserved, unconditional and unexpected love of God in Jesus Christ. "
After ten years of research, aided by his friendship with the Rev. Hicham Chehab, a former militant Muslim and later journalist in Jordan, a fourth edition of his manual was published by BakerBooks ( Grand Rapids, MI ) in 2011 . (Hicham today is an ordained Lutheran minister at the Salam Arabic Church in Lombard, Illinois.) The 256-page book was reviewed by " Christianity Today" and "World Magazine", which described it as "an unprecedented collection of [1,500 ] passages and doctrines of both faiths….an indispensable collection of accurate, understandable, information taken directly from the primary source books of both faiths."
Though the book is , in an academic sense, a balanced comparison between the Bible and the Qur'an, a few readers thought Rick was sympathetic to the Islamic faith. Rick disagrees ( and so do I ) and asserts that his book "is an objective comparison between the two faiths and that both Muslims and Christians can benefit from reading it. Rick believes that Christians should share their faith with Muslims with "gentleness and respect " and that God's "great love yearns to reach the heart of the person who is Muslim. "
Adding to his comments on Rick's research and scholarship , the Rev. Dan P. Gilbert, former president of the Northern Illinois District of the Missouri District , said: the book "will be both a great help to those seeking spiritual truth and also a deep comfort to those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and t he Savior of the Nations." Wrote the missionary , Rev. Peter Conwell Richards : "I used it [ the manual ] in Mombasa , Kenya and elsewhere with excellent results. The clarity of common misunderstandings of the Bible exhibited in the Qur'an are clearly delineated and also the many misunderstandings of what Muslims truly believe are quite clearly outlined as well. "
Since then , several radio stations country-wide have interviewed Rick about his book, which also has been the focus of several workshops he has conducted about Islam and Christianity. "I look forward to witnessing to Muslims every day of my life, " Rick said. The first time he talked to a Muslim , it was the young man who was dating one of his daughters. The man's parents had invited Rick and Mary to a picnic.
Rick has a low tolerance for any Qur'an quote used to prove that the Islamic faith does not allow violence, especially to people innocent of criminal behavior . The majority of these misleading quotes , he says, are from well-meaning American citizens, both Muslims and Christians. In a letter to a newspaper editor, he quoted from the Qur'an ( Sura 5:33 ) : Whoever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it is as if killed all mankind. "Thus the Qur’an allows revenge killing and murder for corruption which includes homosexuality, abortion, or immodesty," Rick wrote. .
|With the Rev. Hicham Chehab, a Christian convert from|
Lebanon, now helping other converts to resettle in America.
" I had a CAT scan for prostate cancer ," Rick tells me . "The attendant was from the Middle East. I asked him, 'What is your name? ' "
"He said, 'Anwar.' "
"I asked, 'Oh, like Anwar Sadat?' "
"I asked him where he came from. "
" I then inquired, 'What does the name Pakistan stand for?' "
"I politely asked, " 'Are you Muslim?'
" I told him, 'Oh, I have been reading the Qur'an. ' "
'What did you learn? ' " he asked me. "
" 'I learned, ' I said " 'that Muslims believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and that he is a great prophet. ' "
' That is right, ' " my Muslim friend said. "
" 'But one thing that puzzled me, ' I continued, ' is that the Qur'an says that He was not actually crucified, it only appeared so.' "
"Anwar answered, 'That's right. ' "
"I proceeded: 'For me the cross is a plus sign of God's great love. Just as John the Baptist said, Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).'"
" With that, our conversation needed to end , for my body was now passing through the CAT scanner . But what an opportunity and a privilege I had ! "
Rick has given ten radio interviews and continues to give lectures about comparing the Bible with the Qur'an. "I am very concerned that Christians are not sufficiently equipped to meet the challenge of Islam ," he says.
Twilight Years of Our Friendship
At age 81 , Rick began walking with a cane, yet I knew I'd never see him ever camping for long under a shade tree watching the rest of us pilgrims trekking ahead . Nor would I witness him passing up an opportunity to comfort or enlighten someone lost in a desert of doubt or disbelief. Sometimes, however , this pastor was unsure of the impact of his words . A few days ago he was telling me of a young Afro-American clerk he met in a bookstore . In casual , non-religious conversation, she mentioned she worshipped the ancient Egyptian sun god Ra [ or Re] and wanted nothing to do with Christianity because of all the Americans who once profited from the slave trade. Rick did some research and returned a week later and politely told her how the white, former slave ship master , John Newton , was converted to Christianity and became an Anglican clergyman and wrote one of the most spiritually inspiring church hymns of all time : "Amazing Grace. " The clerk abruptly told my friend not to say another word to her and walked away.
Then there was an event which Rick related one May day morning in 2015 when we, along with our wives , were sitting on a bench and inhaling seductive scents of the Chicago Botanic Gardens . It was a Friday , the special weekday which the Richters had for years observed as their " Friday Lite ," a fun date , a day —if possible—to avoid doing anything "heavy." As we looked out at an acre-large rose garden , Rick was reminded of his newly blossomed Magnolia tree that he had for two years been diligently feeding an iron nutrient. He had shared his Magnolia success story with a cranky, 81-year-old , widower neighbor to whom Rick had once witnessed the Gospel. The neighbor, a self-admitted atheist , at the time had an dying Magnolia tree , yet pooh-poohed Rick's iron treatment . Nevertheless, Rick went home and picked a handful of the tree's blossoms and showed them to his neighbor, saying, "Look what my nutrient iron has done to make these blossoms so beautiful ! " The neighbor was unmoved.
Rick said he never knew the fate of his neighbor's ailing Magnolia tree, but soon after that his neighbor lay dying in a hospital. Rick visited him and learned that the dying man had recently told a visiting priest to go to hell. Rick, wanting to give his neighbor some peace before dying, lovingly told him , " I hope and pray that when your last hour comes, dear neighbor, you will want to meet the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. "
"I miss him, " Rick told me as the four of us rose from our bench and headed for another garden.
The Richter's " Friday Lite " also allowed for some impromptu silliness, either during a no-brainer card game called " Skip-Bo " or having dinner out , like that one night at the Buffalo restaurant ( named after a popular Chicago ice cream parlor where, decades ago, its so-called "soda jerks " were men in their twenties who hand-whipped bottled cream for Sundaes served in tin dishes ) .
For fun, Rick will watch a Cubs or Blackhawks game, the evening news, and for laughs, the Andy Griffith show ( Don Knotts bowls him over ). He loves to fish in one of the nearby Forest Preserve ponds . And what never fails to make him happy ? It's gazing up at very tall trees, particularly the one on my neighbor's lawn—a fifty-foot elm ; every time Rick visits me, he pauses outside and, as if seeing that tree for the first time, looks up at it in awe : "Just look at that ! Look at it, will you !"
Coffee Talks at McDonald's
In 1996, Rick and I began meeting twice, sometimes three times weekly at a local McDonald's . We'd spend an hour over coffee—he, often with pancakes and I with apple pastries. Sometimes Rick wore blue jeans , but whatever he wore was with good "suburban" taste. For some privacy we sat in a small alcove with two chairs and a round table . Our privacy often vanished when we'd became about national politics, the changing American culture, or hot-bottom theology questions such as : Do we get a ticket to heaven because of our good works or only by a faith-filled "relationship" in Jesus ? ; or are both required of us ?
|Rick at the pulpit of St. Peter Lutheran Church in|
Arlington Heights, Illinois.
We took pleasure about talking about our gardens and exchanging opinions about a movie we saw on television . (The Richters seldom went to a movie theater, largely due, I surmised , to budget constraints . ) Rick could have written sonnets about the honeysuckle that adorned his patio trellis or the Siberian Peapod tree on the front lawn—so well manicured by his wife . I took mental notes of several of our talks and put them on my computer when I got home.
Feb. 19, 2011: Seeing the face of Jesus in other people
R ( in a melancholic voice ) —I miss her very much .
ME—The 85-year-old woman ?
R—The last time before she died we sang " What a Friend We Have in Jesus " and then "Rock of Ages." She looked at me and smile, feebly. She had been a great blessing to her family. ( taking out a photograph and handing it to me ) So alive and vibrant.
ME—Maybe you saw the face of Jesus in her.
R—I think maybe I did.
I withheld telling Rick my regret in finding it impossible to see Jesus' face in any one, no matter the suffering or love I felt…. But maybe someday.
May 8, 2012: Rick's aging
Rick recently turned 80, and this morning his voice was choky , and at times his eyes moistened, especially when he said--
R—I've lost energy. I think I have to cut back. But I can't.
ME—The prostate ?
R—Too much radiation…(after a long silence ) Too many people to see. There are three other pastors but they don't have time. Something else, Bob: I need cataract surgery on both eyes.
ME—Hate to say it, Rick, but you're not indispensable.
R—Oh, no. It's not that ! It's just that…( now tearfully ) … I'd have to give up my house calls. .. I love what I do so much , bringing our Lord's Word to them.
ME—I know. ( another long pause ) Does the church know about your cataracts ?
R—No. But that's not it.
ME—Don't quit, Rick ! Don't ever quit ! Keep going !
I had never heard my friend express such intimate thoughts, and I sadly sensed that this man facing me had a foot on the last lap of his life's trek and would soon be physically humbled. ( I would be proven wrong about this . ) I could do little for him now except offer to be his chauffeur until his cataracts were removed. Rick declined my offer; His Mary would be driving him, as she sometimes would three years later when they sold one of their two cars. The next day I got this email from him: "Hi, Bob: Thanks for being a friend and letting me share some of my deepest concerns with you. I felt refreshed and restored afterward. You were the Lord's servant to me. I pray that you might share the same peace from the Lord . Peace and Joy in the Lord, Rick [his usual sign-off ].
May 14, 2014: Our ' Dark Nights of the Soul'
Somehow we got on the subject of spiritual aridity, that condition which a secularist or atheist might describe—erroneously—as depression . Saints and theologians, notably Catholic but certainly not Lutheran, see this aridity as one's sensing a complete absence of God in their lives; it is, often coupled with a persisting storm of memories of sinful behavior. All agree in their writings that this state can be terrifying , especially to the individual who has been steadfastly and soberly devoted to his or her Christian faith . After they have survived it (aridity can last for a few days or a few years) , they will tell you that this aridity is a grace of God which strengthens faith in God and advances an individual—as it has for them—in loving God for Who He is rather than for what He can do for them.
I shared with Rick my own occasional fear of backsliding into behavior commonly described as belonging to that 'old man ' in us . But I said that this fear had a vital role in keeping me "walking straight ", avoiding rabbit trails leading nowhere.
R—Maybe it's just a bad case of scruples.
ME—Yeah, maybe some of that. That can be worse, you know. I know some of us compulsively strive to correct the most trivial things .
R—Right. I've know a few whose life was made miserable by thinking they never did anything right. Always apologizing, feeling guilty. Intelligent people, too. They need to believe that God really does love them and doesn’t hold grudges.
ME—Rick, You ever get spiritually dry ?
R—( laughing, yet sensing I remained by all this ) ) If you mean moody or just having a bad day —we all do.
ME—( sarcastically, not liking his laughing ) Including you ?
R—I think sometimes about past sins.
ME—( sensing a tacit agreement not to take this any further ) So ?
R—Keep walking on that razor's edge of faith in Christ…( then, after some discomfort in our starting at each other too long ) …Bob, read Psalm 103 and then 42.
ME—And your "Golden Promises " ? [ his "manual" of favorite Biblical verses he had collected during a lifetime and would later put on FaceBook https://www.facebook.com//rick.richter.161 along with the audio of several past sermons]
We headed for the parking lot to our white Toyotas , and Rick told me how much he appreciated our coffee time. He admitted that for the last four months he had been depressed over losing his energy and ability to preach sermons. It was difficult for him to voice this.
April 18, 2014: Forgiveness and Fortitude
Rick had been having trouble forgiving a young man for criticizing him for calling a voters meeting to bless Rick's new church assignment.
R—He told me 'You should have just left '.
ME—But you've forgiven him ?
R—Yes. And I asked God to forgive me for harboring negative thoughts about that man.
Rick then stood up and acted out something which enlightened me about the virtue of fortitude. As if a circus performer on a tightrope , he started walking gingerly , one foot perfectly in front of the other.
R—You see, Bob, keep looking ahead at Jesus, not at the safety net below.
May, 2014: What's this World Coming to ?
ME—Rick, we live in a bubble here in Arlington Heights. I mean, we've got problems here, but nothing like those in other towns. I mean, sometimes I feel that with all our good schools, safe neighborhoods, and churches with all kinds of ministries—well, I think most people here, including you and me , are pampered !
R—I know. And another thing: The whole world is losing its morality; it reaching a crisis, and America's debt will be its undoing. Our debtor countries like China and Russia will lose confidence in us to pay them back—
ME ( interrupting )—and that, added to the Islamist extremists bent on conquering the world as they tried to do in the 10th Century, will—
R ( he can't wait to say it )—bring God's final wrath, and let's not forget the millions of abortions in this country.
As usual , Rick, who always begins our conversations with a prayer, now waited for me to again close this one with a prayer.
Feb. 15, 2015: Salvation without Hearing a Word of the Gospel ?
This conversation left us both drained more than any other. It went beyond our usual hour . I never saw Rick so downcast and weary as when he now lamented the lingering health issues of his two daughters , one living in Madison, Wisconsin, the other in Iowa City. Rick and his wife had made numerous weekend visits to the two cities in all-out efforts to comfort the two girls. The morning didn't get any better when we slid into a topic—we never have an agenda—on which Catholic dogma and most Protestant dogma disagree: Can a native living in darkest Africa , for example, who has never heard nor read a word of the Gospel, get to heaven? Many Lutherans say he will not enter heaven, even though he might not have had any opportunity to read or hear the Gospel. Catholics say that the eternal fate of this man and that of all earthlings is entirely up to Jesus and that conversion to the Christian faith is ongoing , rather than a one-time occurrence, as Protestants believe. Most Protestants also believe that anyone who sincerely asks Jesus to forgive his or her sins and then , with sober conviction, accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior, goes to heaven.
R ( after hearing the "Catholic" position )— Bob, the Bible is clear: faith comes from hearing the Word of God , and it is by faith and God's grace, not by works , that we are saved.
ME—It also says in the Book of James, that faith without works is dead. Isn’t it possible that somehow this native in Africa has faith in God but simply, for a variety of reasons, can't articulate it?
R— We can talk about that later.
In our coffee nook the ambiance of fellowship was fading. Prudently , we ended the topic and returned to fellowship. I told Rick this joke: A mountain climber was high up and starting to slip to his doom when he grabbed on to a small shrub protruding from a steep cliff. ' God,' he called out, ' save me and I'll do anything you ask. ' A voice boomed out : ' Let go of that bush.' The climber then called louder than ever: ' Is there anyone else up there ? '
April 1 , 2016: Wood, Woodpeckers, and 'Flying through the Universe '
We were talking about the ten acres of beautiful woodland on his family's former farm in northern Minnesota.
R—Been wondering what to do with those ten acres of mine…all that woodland.
ME—You have a love affair with wood, don't you ?
R—That guy who cut down those trees for himself, he never did apologize, you know.
ME—You should have taken him to court, Rick.
R—( ignoring the question in favor of his pancakes ) I'm thinking of leaving the land to the kids. Right now, I've got a problem with woodpeckers. They love the cedar siding on the house, pecked out a big hole on one side. I'm having someone come out this week to give me an estimate on new siding.
I recalled Rick's still-abiding love of woodcarving and carpentry, skills he learned on the farm and which he has used in various ways all this life.
ME—That'll cost you. [ The Richters eventually decided to have their home painted. ]
We made another one of our radical change of subjects and shared our personal visions of heaven.
ME—Don't laugh at mine, now ; but I see it without the dimensions of time or space. I see the whole thing as the body of Christ , where billions of us are, ( and now I stumbled through the rest ) simultaneously existing in our individual and glorified bodies but unified and interacting as do cells and atoms of our earthly bodies—with Christ as the head of it all.
R—That's beautiful !
ME—And now your, vision, Rick.
R—(seriously yet laughing ) I'm flying through the universe.
Feb. 1, 2016: ' But I'm Ordinary '
Rick was telling me about his disenchantment with some Lutheran ministers he heard speak recently at a Lutheran church circuit meeting.
R—They see things differently today.
ME—How so ?
R—Well, I advised them not to follow suit with other Lutheran ministers who are leaving out Bible verses nowadays , verses which we normally quote in our sermons…and that they are there not addressing issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, gays…
R—They concluded that they should just keep preaching the way they have.
Was Rick now talking to a reporter rather than to a friend , I asked myself?
ME—Rick, I want to write your life story.
Rick was silent for at least 30 seconds . I believe he was thinking of the many things he had revealed to me in confidence through the years, and now his good friend, a journalist whom he knew had a passion for truth as strong at his, wanted to tell everyone what the Rev. Eldor was all about.
ME—I want to write about the life-long trials and tribulations of a special kind of minister.
Rick twice slowly rolled his head to one side , obviously not knowing what to say.
ME ( pressing him )— There's so much to tell about you that can benefit many who have been asking many questions for years without getting any answers. If you don't give me some of those answers, maybe no one ever will hear them.
R—I'm just happy that I survived and did what was expected of me... ( now, pleading)… But , Bob, I'm ordinary!
Nearing His River Jordan Still Trekking
|Rick and Mary with artist Mary Alice Davis-Schwarz |
and husband Bob, behind her, on holiday at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
tell you that the heart-deep friendships of hundreds of individuals —their joys and especially their sorrows— have salted and peppered his life more than anything else.
For the past 20 years , Rick has been meeting Thursday evenings with seven men to study the Bible. One of them, Ernie Toborg, recently sent me this email: "Rick's energy and love for our Lord and Savior is like no other. It is said that in life you make many acquaintances but if you've made one close friend, you're blessed ! In 1992, when my nephew, his wife, and niece were killed in a private plane crash in Pittsburg, Rick went over to my sister's home and led everyone in a memorial service. And in 2005 , when I had six-way heart by-pass surgery and the doctors were not optimistic about my survival because of other complications, Rick was there praying with me--and here I am! Rick, you're the BEST ! "
In mid 2015, there were times when I thought my friend was about to cross the finish line. He had retired from the pulpit he loved dearly. The light of his Christian faith , which for decades he had given without stint to friends—and sometimes foes—was flickering. Aging was a factor , but the real grindstone were those repeated trips to Iowa and Wisconsin where Rick , along with Mary, gave themselves without cost to body or mind to the care of their two daughters and a granddaughter ; it was a season in their lives when the elixir of parent love was needed . For several months , Rick seldom had a normal night's sleep. But today Rick will tell you that the family's faith continues as defined in Holy Scripture as : the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen ( Hebrews 11: 1 ) .
At McDonald's , Rick and I , of course, offer solutions to all the world's major problems. He continues to express sadness over the direction which American culture is heading and what appears , to both of us , as a dangerous increase in a population which chooses to be their own omnipotent , moral authority. " My greatest concern," Rick tells me , "is that God will soon say tell them, You're on your own from now on. " To that I added: " And that will be the precursor to the end times. "
I never saw Rick really angry, except when he read a Newsweek magazine article I gave him. It was a long cover story written by a celebrated author who repeatedly questioned the spiritual value of the Bible . He asserted that it had too many bad and inaccurate translations. The writer's research had been laborious but skewered , and Rick, with equal research, wrote the magazine's editor-in-chief a long letter to that effect. Rick ended his letter with: " By ridiculing belief in the Bible, you have added to the secularism of our day. I pray that those who are taken by Mr. _______'s article and the ridiculing of certain segments of the Christian faith, might seek for themselves the wonderful truth concerning Jesus Christ by reading the Gospel of John…Pease and Joy in the Lord, Rev. E.W. Richter. "
One morning at McDonald's , it was my turn to be teary-eyed. Rick was telling me about Chris Kline , who was born with multiple sclerosis that left him without control of any of his muscles , except those in his two big toes. Today, Mr. Kline is a college graduate and moves his body on a carpet by pulling himself forward inch by inch. He operates a personal computer with one toe and , with the other, operates his electric chair.
Rick quoted Chris to me: " God gave me this body, and I consider it a gift. It is a gift because I can encourage others with it. " Then Rick turned to me and said , " Because Chris is so weak, the life of Christ is accented in him ." Ending our talk for the morning, my 84-year-old friend from the farm lands of southern Minnesota remarked, "So, Bob, when we are weak and say I'm useless and helpless, we'll think of Chris Kline. "
Lastly, a Few Questions for Rick…
Rick consented to a long interview to answer these following questions , which , I believe, people might want to ask over coffee with him.
Considering the radical changes our culture has undergone since you pastored a church, what advice might you have today for young pastors?
Often churches face financial problems. In attempting to raise funds, we should remember what Jesus said: “When you give alms, sound not trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men” …Matt. 6:3. My appeal to the people has always been to give to the Lord personally, because He first loved us. Then people will respond generously .
Any advice to the parents whose child is about to become a high school student ?
Since I had a grandchild in high school, I understand the concern of parents. I would hope that the parents have practiced their faith with love, forgiveness and discipline; that they have had family devotions and would continue attending worship services as a family. Parents should teach children to exercise personal responsibility more —within boundaries. Talk with them. Listen to them and continue to show them acts of love, forgiveness and kindness. Go camping together and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. Attend their school activities and take them to their favorite restaurant. Stay close to one another and to the Lord.
How has your marriage to Mary benefited your many years of ministry?
Mary has been the most wonderful thing that has happened to me. She is a joy to live with. She is a woman of faith and love, cheerful and positive. She has taught the Word of God to children and adults, conducted devotions, served as a Christian Growth Chairman, visited the sick, fed the needy, baby sat, made evangelism calls, served at suppers, funerals and weddings, cleaned the church, sang in choirs, audited books, served as secretary to the pastor and worked as a hospital nurse. Above all she has been a wonderful wife and mother to our children, a godly woman who has served her Lord and shown Christ’s love to us as a family and to people consistently. I'd like to add what I heard once from an aged woman who said Mary was created in her mother’s womb to be a pastor's wife.
Generally speaking, what, if any, reforms do you believe should be made today in Christian churches throughout America ? The world ?
The church needs to be a church. The Greek word for church is “ecclesia” —those “called out” of this world and called into a new fellowship in Christ in faith and love. We are to be “in” the world, but not “of” the world. Christ calls us to be a salt and leaven in the culture. Don’t redefine the church to fit the culture, but as the church, know that your identity is in Christ and that as “God’s own people, you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”… I Pet. 2:9. Do not forsake the gathering together in prayer, in Bible Study, and in fellowship. Care for the poor and needy as unto Christ. Remember you are Christ’s “little flock” and stay close to the Good Shepherd who “lay down His life for the sheep" …John 10:15. He says, “Fear not little flock. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” … Luke 12:32.
Regarding the spread of Islam throughout the country, might you suggest an attitude we should have about American Muslims ?
Islam is growing by leaps and bounds in the world’s population, while the population of the Christian world is decreasing by comparison. Muslims are very committed to their religion and are pressing the church as they did in the Middle Ages when they captured Constantinople and almost overran Europe. While the government as God’s “left hand” has the responsibility to resist the Jihadist movement, the individual Christian should have the attitude that he should “give an answer for the hope which he or she has and to do it “with gentleness and respect” … I Peter. 3:15. The Allah of Islam is quite different from the Lord God Yahweh, the Great I Am. Allah’s love is conditional. The 2007 “Open Letter” by world Islamic leaders to world Christian leaders cites Sura 3:31 of the Qur’an, “If you love God, follow me; God will love you and forgive you your sins.” Thus by loving Allah one earns the love of Allah. Contrast this to the Bible which says, “God is love”…I John 4:8. And , “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” …I John 4:10. God’s love in Christ is unexpected, undeserved and unconditional. How wonderful is that! A pastor's goal and the attitude of all Christians should be to draw the Muslim to Christ by at same love.
What milestones in your life have most shaped it ?
As a child I went with my parents to “mission festivals.” Four congregations in our community would rotate in having their one “mission festival Sunday " during the summer. There would be morning, afternoon, and perhaps evening services and lunch served by the women of the host congregation. Guest pastors were invited to preach on the need “to go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel.” The need to tell others about Christ was wonderfully motivating and instilled in me a great love for those who do not know Christ. When I was a sophomore in high school, I went to a boarding prep school and began nine years of pastoral education that included Holy Scriptures and languages (German, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew). I received a Master of Divinity degree and later took post-graduate courses. A year of internship equipped and deepened my commitment to the Lord and the pastoral ministry. By the grace of Christ, that commitment has remained with me.
Is there anything you'd like people to remember you for when you're in heaven ?
That I loved the Lord and loved people and that I was a man of God who proclaimed the love and comfort of Jesus Christ.
|At home with his favorite book, the Holy Bible|
All comments are welcome.
© 2016 Robert R. Schwarz