Tom: My conversation today and last week was with Elijah Abraham, and we’re excited to have him back. As I mentioned at the end of last week, total blessing. Folks, you’ve got to take this recording and get it to your pastor, get it out there. I mean, it’s so important and so timely, especially considering the day that we’re in. As I mentioned last week, his primary ministry is Living Oasis Ministries. That’s livingoasis.org. You know, his ministry is about – it’s devoted to teaching American churches about Islam and the best means for reaching out to Muslims with the gospel. So I look forward to what we’re going to do today.
Now, as we ended last week, I asked Elijah about having grown up Muslim and then becoming a believer, how did his attitude change, or did it need to change, about Israel and the Jews?
Could you just kind of bring us back to maybe a synopsis of what you had to say, Elijah?
Elijah: Well, it’s just like [other] Muslims around the world. I grew up hating the Jews, I hated Israel’s existence, and of course I was taught to hate Christians too, because they believed in three Gods and they support Israel. As a youngster I was taught that the Jews are the enemy of Islam and Arabs. I was also told that they were the enemy of Muhammad and conspired against him. So the brainwashing began very early in life for me and I’m sure for every Muslim child. Whenever the phrase “the enemy” was uttered in a conversation, every Muslim, including myself, knew that phrase identifying Jews in Israel. I think it started to change slowly when I was studying in Europe. I had some Jewish friends that I thought were very kind and very nice people, so confusion settled in my mind as I was very confused to why I consider these people my enemy. They were just human beings like me and like you.
Then years later, when I started to read and fully understand the Scripture and God’s promises to the Israelites and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then started studying the history of the Jews and how God protected them and kept them even when they were disobedient to Him, that’s when God changed my attitude and my heart towards the Jews and Israel. The Lord has given me a great love and respect for them and the nation of Israel. I pray that, someday, they will see the Lord Jesus Christ as their awaited Messiah. This love definitely, Tom, grew even deeper when I visited Israel the first time in 2004 and a second time in 2010. And when I watched the opening of the United States Embassy live in Jerusalem, I was overjoyed and overwhelmed with joy and happiness for them that they’d been waiting for this day for decades, if not for [300?] years.
But from a scriptural point of view, you and I, I think prophecies about that this might be temporary, and it will be temporary until the Lord Jesus comes. So yeah, I have no problem talking to my friends, the Jews. And here’s a privilege: I got invited to speak at a Messianic congregation one time where they believed in the Messiah, I believed in the Lord Jesus, the same Messiah, and we hugged each other and it was wonderful experience.
Tom: Mm-hmm. You also mentioned that when you entered into a church and how, for a time, they didn’t recognize the fact that you weren’t saved, and they just made assumptions and they certainly didn’t recognize that you were thinking in terms of works salvation. But then, this is where I’d like you to take us: once you became a believer, how were you grounded in the faith? Were you discipled, or what took place?
Elijah: Well, that’s really a tricky thing, because I’m always trying to encourage churches and pastors really to pay attention to the new believers. I don’t care what background they came from. They could be Billy Bob next door to you; it really makes no difference. But for me, as a young believer, I was very frustrated, very confused, because they did not understand my theological objections to the gospel or to the Scripture. I took the first step by believing in Christ, but that’s as far as it went, but nobody helped me with that. No one really understood my worldview, and the transition that I had to make into this new life in Christ. I had so many theological questions that no one can help me with that question and answer my question.
That’s how hard . . . My wife was more mature spiritually than me. She’d been a believer a number of years before we met. Then at that time she did her best to help me, but then she got frustrated that she could not answer my questions. That’s when she recommended that I listen to some preachers on the radio such as Ravi Zacharias, Chuck Swindoll, Adrian Rogers, Erwin Lutzer, C. Ferrara and others, and that’s when God starts really using these men of God to mentor me and disciple me theologically. But of course I got some of their books and workbooks and tapes. But after my repentance and following Christ, the Holy Spirit became my teacher. By . . . when I read the Word of God and pray, and of course my wife and I study the Scripture together, and later on, the Lord taught – brought into my life men of God to be my mentors and my spiritual fathers that had been such a blessing to walk with them and learn from them, and for them to invest in my life. It’s – sometimes it’s the hard way of being discipled or grow spiritually, but it doesn’t have to be this way. That’s why we have to be sensitive to those new believers around us and just come alongside them and help them in their journey.
Tom: So as you were grounded in the faith, how did you figure out what the Lord wanted you to do?
Elijah: That’s an interesting question. The Lord kept opening doors for me to witness to people. I did not seek it, but it happened. Not only Muslims, I found out that somehow I have the ability to communicate the gospel with joy that came out of it! Also I had – I was restless with the work that I was doing and finding no satisfaction in it. Yet I found great satisfaction when talking to others about the Lord. Months went by and the Lord kept talking to me through His Word, through preaching of the Word when I go to church, through God’s people, and so my wife and I kept praying to what the Lord want us to do, and that’s to serve Him and how to serve Him. That’s when I realized that God had called me to preach and teach His Word.
Tom, it took me a year and a half to understand what being “called” means. . .
Elijah: . . .or meant to me. And that’s why I’m still a student of His Word, and I’m always excited when I saw something new from God’s Word that will apply not just to me, and especially knowing more about His will in my life, but also in the life of others, and it’s a wonderful journey to be part of God’s kingdom that we always strive to learn more about Him. And I love what Jesus said in John:17:3: He identifies eternal life. This is what He said – He said, “And this is eternal life, that you may know God and Jesus Christ whom God has sent.” So that tells me that eternal life is – we’re going to know more about God than we already know about Him, and that’s exciting. That really makes me shout “Hallelujah!”
Tom: Right. Elijah, when we were together at the conference, you know, a couple of weeks ago, as you know my message was Jesus’s words to Peter: “Feed My lambs. Feed My sheep.”
Tom: And then I meet you, okay, and I hear about Living Oasis Ministry, I hear what you’re doing – I’ll tell you, I don’t think I’ve had that much excitement in months, certainly about, you know, an organization. . .well, not an organization. We’re talking about a living ministry here, okay? It’s Living Oasis Ministry. But what you’re doing. . .
So, share with our listeners Living Oasis Ministries – how you’re ministering, not just with regard to Islam, but to getting – because I’ve had this experience – getting young, vibrant churches on track with the Word of God! I mean, explain that to our listeners.
Elijah: Which is interesting – I’m glad you asked, and I thank you for asking that question. Initially when we started Living Oasis Ministries was really to corporate church. Our mission statement is to awaken the church to the Islamic agenda. But first we start with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and by doing exactly . . . teach the church how to stand up and answer Muslim questions, to teach an apologetics and modern evangelism. So it started out focusing on the American church, and then the Lord expanded our ministry to become a global ministry. In the United States, I’m talking about two-day seminars in America. Over two days, the church will receive 12 teaching hours. The first three hours are about the threat of Islam – exposing Islamic agenda; what is the spirit of Islam? And then nine hours of nothing but Scripture, Bible, and apologetics and biblical doctrine – how to answer Muslim objections.
But then, as the Lord moves us overseas, here in the United States we also train missionaries before we depart for the mission field. But internationally overseas, I focus on national pastors and church planters. Basically, our ministry is focused on training the trainers. And of course depends on the country and the need of that particular country or the need of the church in those countries. Most of the time, I’m teaching biblical doctrine, the foundations of the faith, and theology. Then I move into the apologetics, because a lot of pastors, they’re really not at that level to get into apologetics. They are such elementary in their faith, I have to start in the basics. So our ministry has also been called on by some politically conservative [. . .] here in America, or groups, radio interviews, and I also had the privilege of speaking at a number of veterans’ organizations and veterans’ events.
So our ministry in America is different than it is overseas. In America, [it] mainly focuses on awakening repentance, call for repentance, get out of American “Christianity”; let’s go back to biblical Christianity. Overseas, mainly theological training, doctrinal education, as well was how to defend the faith in the midst of their own circumstances, because I go to travel to modern countries, or Hindu countries, and animistic countries, and of course communist countries. So it depends the circumstances where I’m at.
Tom: Mm-hmm. As you were talking about your ministry in other countries, particularly – you know, as you said, you’re planting churches, you have young and initially, at least, vibrant churches, and so on. But I was a little shocked, because I guess I’m so caught up in the problems with the American church, to hear from you that you just got to get into the fundamentals! I mean, we need the fundamentals! We need to get back to the fundamentals here in this country, but to hear what strides you can make about bringing them back to basic, simple, sound doctrine and its power – I mean, that was just astounding!
Elijah: And I’m now telling you, Brother Tom, I am so blessed that God has chosen me to do this for the body of Christ in those countries, because after going through the fundamentals, and as I’m teaching, I could see the light comes in their eyes. These are pastors, by the way, and they – and during the question and answers, some of them in tears, they say, “We’ve never been taught this way.” And when they are doing things that are unbiblical, they acknowledge it, they repent, and they say, “We have been taught wrong. We’ve been doing this the wrong way. We need to submit to God’s Word.” What a blessing for me to hear that from pastors! I wish that, in America, we are humble enough to say, “You know what, I’ve been taught wrong. I’ve been doing this the wrong way. I need to change course.”
Tom: Yeah. One of the things that I call – some of the things, or a few of the things that I do in ministry, I’m invited to places like Mongolia, for example, which the young, vibrant churches there have bought into the whole prosperity movement, you know, some of those prosperity teachers have translated their books into Mongolian. I’m in Albania, for example, and I’m dealing with Calvinism, which is splitting young, vibrant churches there and so on. I call it damage control, and, you know, it’s a part of, I believe, what God has called me to do. But to hear what you’re doing would solve me from having to go to these places! Not that I’m the only one, but you get my meaning here: that if they are into the sound fundamentals, what is this in effect? We’re encouraging people to be Bereans. You know, to search the Scriptures. 1) To get sound doctrine; 2) whatever they’re hearing, to hold it up to Scripture!
So, again, as I said, my delight in hearing how the Lord is using you, and how important it is, is such a blessing, and I hope and pray that our listeners will take this to heart – not only support your ministry but encourage their own fellowships here in this country to do what you’re doing! I mean, it’s so critically important, because things aren’t getting better, and we have to get back to, you know, as Jesus said Peter, “Peter, do you love Me? Feed My sheep. Feed My lambs.” And of course, Peter’s response was . . .
Elijah: Yeah, in America, it’s never boring to go back to the fundamentals, the systematic theology, biblical doctrine. Never boring, ever. And I think somehow, in American mindsets and American Christianity, we feel like, “Oh, well, we’ve got our PhDs, we’ve been in the church long enough, we have the technology, we’ve got Bible app in my phone, so I’ve got it. I don’t need to go back to the fundamentals. Oh, boy, we are so wrong whenever we have that attitude!
Tom: Oh, it’s utter stupidity! And the reason being is because, you know, the gospel is the power of salvation, okay? I mean, not only within the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation do we have God’s instructions to us, but He’s given us as believers His Holy Spirit to do the very things and understand the very things.
Now, again, what we’re seeing is – here’s a dangerous word, here’s poison for the church: it’s called “marketing!”
Tom: “All right, no, the only way we’re going to get people into the church is, you know, cozy up to the culture.” I just heard recently Andy Stanley, for example, says, “Well, we need to put aside the Old Testament because it’s not attractive.” Basically I’m paraphrasing him, but that’s basically what he said. What is that? If it’s not there, it’s a movement to apostasy without a doubt. It’s really sad.
So, again, the American church, I’m looking at my notes here, and it’s a frustration not just for you, but for me and for all those who would call themselves biblical Christians. But, you know, as we see these things developing, Elijah, it’s not on our shoulders. The Lord wants to use us, but we’re in a rescue operation. Nevertheless, we have to pursue and please the Lord in how we’re going about this with meekness, humility – there’s too much sarcasm and all of that with regard to those who are in error. Look, we just need to lay it out plainly what the Word of God says and let the Holy Spirit do the convicting here.
Tom: So how do you, Elijah, how do you balance your ministry to the church regarding the errors of Islam? You know, you talk about both the American church and then the church –whether it be Indonesia or India, wherever it might be, how do you balance those things?
Elijah: Well, I have to go back a little bit about – you know, we keep saying American church, American church. We kind of have to – the way people ask me, I’ve been in close to 40 countries, and I have been to an impoverished church that we met under a tree in Africa to . . . somewhere sit on the floor – there is no furniture in India, or a megachurch in America. I’ve seen the faithful and I’ve seen apostates and everything in between. People ask me what I thought of the American church: “What is the biggest challenge that you have in your ministry? Is it security? Is it the issues that you deal with, because . . . ” You know, I had to already move my family once because we had death threats and, you know, live under really difficult situations here in America! But my answer is, really, that’s not the biggest deal or the biggest problem for us. Yeah, security, I have some control over it. I can manage what needs to be done. But the biggest challenge in our ministry and for me is the apathy of the American church.
Elijah: I have to explain what I’m saying here: when people ask me, “You travel around the world; what’s your opinion? What’s your thinking about the American church?”
I say, “Before I even tell you my opinion or what I think, I’m not judging what the church is. That’s not my job. That’s God’s church. But what I see in America, we have two types of Christianity in America: the first is American Christianity, and the second is biblical Christianity. The majority of churches in America are practicing American Christianity. Why do I call it American Christianity? Because they allow the American culture to influence the church instead of the church influencing the culture. And as a result it has become an incubator for a lot of heresies, anywhere from emergent church to seeker sensitive to Chrislam to liturgical practices to New Age . . . all of this “within the name of Christ” in evangelical churches. But the biblical church, they’re not even on the radar!
Tom, I have to go through so many churches, invited to and through so many churches, until I find a biblical church that they minister to me, because I find them faithful.
So the question is, to answer the question, “How do I balance our ministry?” Well, the first thing I do is to teach on how we got the Bible. When I go to countries, and I know there’s a lot of heresy going on, a lot of false teaching, and when I have pastors – anywhere between 150-200 pastors per city, sometimes I go into a country and I do four or five cities, so overall I’m teaching about 1000-1700 pastors, overall, on the trip. But when I have pastors, they’re not just from one denomination, multiple denominations are represented with all their own thinking and their own doctrine or whatever. Of course, prosperity gospel, I see it in every country that I’ve been in.
So first thing I teach is on the Bible: How did we get it? Is it trustworthy? Is the Bible inspired by God? And if it is, and the answer “yes, yes, yes” in all of this, then I challenge them, “Now . . ." (I get my Bible) I said, “Now, is this Bible and your Bible in your hands, authoritative?” And everybody says, “Yes.” These are pastors and church planters. Once we agree that the Bible is the supreme authority, then all false teaching must be dismantled, and either Islamic or Christian heresy. And I let the Word of God do the fighting for me.
Tom, I’ve been in so many situations where I have a few at the conf . . . in the audience at the conference – who are church planters or pastors in evil countries, and of course, through interpreter they stand up and they argue with me, they try to sell their [ . . . ] or whatever, I just look at them and smile at them, “Okay, let’s see what God has to say about this. Let’s see what God has to say about this.” And I let the Word of God do the fighting for me. And I have been in countries where the pastors and some church planters, missionaries – these are all native, none of them are Westerners – when they are faced with the Word of God, I get blessed to watch and experience and witness when they get down on their knees and repent and say, “We have been wrong.” But there are others, they become stubborn and they don’t do that.
Elijah: This has been the most successful approach to me to deal with very sensitive and controversial issues that have plagued the church, not just here in America, but overseas, as well. Whether it be Asia, Europe, North Africa, South Africa, North America, South America, so some choose to argue or disagree, some choose to repent. But I always point them to the Word of God and what God has to say about Himself and what He teaches and what He wants us to learn. For them to pick their fights, I always say, “You know what? You need to pick your fight with the Bible and God himself, because your argument is not with me; your argument is with God himself.”
Tom: Right. You know, one of the things I love about the name of this ministry, The Berean Call, is the Bereans – you know, I tell people, “Look, they weren’t even Christians! They were Jews in a synagogue in the Greek city of Berea. Yet Luke is commending them for how they went about checking out the Apostle Paul!” So that’s what you want, that’s what I want, and again, once that happens, as you say, we’ve just taken – whether it be Dave Hunt, who’s home with the Lord now, or T. A. McMahon, or Elijah Abraham, I mean, that takes us right out of the way, and it’s on their shoulders. But we keep – we need to keep exhorting them to that end.
Now, Elijah, how can our listeners support your work in the Lord? Certainly prayer. I know for us and for you that’s a major.
Now we’ve got about two minutes left, but what else can we do to support your ministry?
Elijah: One of the difficulties – and I thank you for asking that question- one of the difficulties in America is for pastors to open their doors for me to come alongside of the pastor to raise awareness what the threat of Islam in America and American church, to the American church family, as well as to equip them to reach Muslims for Christ. Look, God is challenging the American church, and He’s bringing Muslims into our neighborhoods. The churches refuse to engage Muslims with the gospel. They are following the footsteps of the European church, and that’s to our detriment! So my encouragement to your listeners: if they have any influence on pastors or if the pastors are willing and humble enough to say, “You know what, I don’t know much about Islam. I need somebody to come alongside of me to help me,” please contact me! I’ll be glad to come alongside of them and conduct a seminar to train and equip the congregation. Second – well, first is prayer. Second, open doors for opportunities to help the church in America. But third, we are a faith-based ministry, so anybody who feels led to support our ministry financially, they could do so through our website. Some people don’t like to do it online, shoot me an email and I’ll give you a mailing address where you could send your check.
Elijah: It is tax deductible, so I’ll pray the Lord for those who are faithful to keep us going, and the Lord has been very gracious on me and my family, keeping us safe and able to continue doing what He called us to do. It’s too big for me to achieve by myself, and I praise God for our supporters and our prayer partners. It’s through their giving, through their prayers, God is allowing me to achieve the goals He has set before us.
Tom: Amen and amen. My guest has been Elijah Abraham. His ministry is Living Oasis Ministries. That is livingoasis.org, and again, it’s been a total blessing. Elijah, I can’t wait for the next time! We’re going to do this again . . .
Elijah: Amen, brother! Amen.
Tom: . . .because we’ve got a lot more to cover, and you have been a tremendous blessing. So thank you, brother. Thank you. I can’t thank you enough.
Elijah: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me, it’s been a blessing. Thank you.