Dear Muslim friend,
Allow me to introduce myself to you. My name is Joseph Abraham. Having come to the truth after many years of searching, I believe God is leading me to share with others what He has done for me through His holy Word — the Bible. Please be patient in reading my letter.
I am Egyptian by birth, born in a Muslim home. My father was a Muslim priest (sheikh) and a teacher of Islam in Cairo, Egypt until his death. My family took pride in their Islamic heritage, for almost all my ancestors were Muslim clergy. In the early years of my life I was looked upon as a future Muslim priest. Therefore my family sent me to a Quranic school from the age of six or seven.
When I was still very young, I started asking questions about God, His judgment, His truth, man’s eternal destiny, etc. Since I was only a child, my questions brought mockery from others. Such treatment did not help, but only discouraged me. I lived in despair and hopelessness because my soul was seeking something Islam did not provide.
My Islamic background was rather shallow and superficial. My father, as a sheikh, memorized almost all the Quran, and encouraged me to do the same, whether I understood it or not. Thus I became a mechanically religious young boy, while my heart was dry, like a desert that seemed endless and hopeless.
Like most Muslims, I lived in a traditional Muslim neighborhood, where I heard the thundering voice of the calls to worship Allah, five times a day. We celebrated the Islamic holidays religiously.
I was taught that Islam was the final religion, which cancelled Judaism and Christianity, and that Christians worship three gods. I was taught also that Christians had corrupted the “original” Bible, which — supposedly — once contained references to the prophet of Islam. Islam also denies the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But there was never any serious attempt to explain the ground of such claims.
When I reached my teens the desire to know which religion is true grew in me. Because questioning Islam is not tolerated in a Muslim nation, my questions and investigations became rather on a private basis. But later many found out about my curiosity. They threw harsh accusations at me: I was called “mentally unstable” and “idiot”. Still others claimed that I was under the influence of an anti-Islam organization. Muslims made my life so intolerable that I wished to die. All I wanted to know is the truth.
In my early twenties I started searching again. Among the questions that concerned me were: Where will I go after I die? Don’t I have the right to know my eternal destiny? Why do Muslims so strongly reject discussing their own religion? Does God want people to be blind to their destiny? How can I know that Islam is the only true religion?
Having no help from anyone, I began to read books about philosophy and psychology, some of which promoted atheism. But denying God never silenced the inward seeking to know the truth. I was encouraged to hold to fatalism and apathy, but that made things worse. My soul still desperately sought the ultimate reality of our spiritual destiny and God’s eternal truth.
It bothered me to realize that I was considered a Muslim just because I was born to Muslim parents and lived in a Muslim nation. No choice was given me: no chance was offered me to examine and find the truth. Worst of all, many Muslims I knew (including my own family) were Muslims simply by heritage. I hardly saw any Muslim making a serious and diligent attempt to investigate their religion with hearts opened to the truth.
In 1968, while I was reading a certain book, I ran into some verses from the Bible which greatly attracted me. These verses spoke with authority about a Man whose name was Jesus Christ. This Man said to the world, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” John 14:6
Dozens of questions jammed my head: Then what about the prophet of Islam? Why do Muslims never speak of Jesus Christ in this manner? They always speak of the prophet of Islam. Who is the “Father”? How can God be called “Father”? Who is His wife? What about Islam, which claims to be the ultimate truth? After all how can I trust the Bible, which Muslims claim is “corrupted”? And many more.
While reading more of the same book I came to other statements by this same Man, Jesus Christ, who said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 I had sought rest for many years, and this Jesus claimed to be the source of rest, and invited others to come to Him.
At that time I had never had a Bible; I had never seen one. Then secretly I asked a professing Christian to lend me a Bible so I could read more about this Man who claims such authority.
About the same time I had heard about an American evangelist who was visiting Egypt. With great eagerness I sneaked secretly into a Protestant church to hear his messages from the Bible. Because he knew no Arabic, he spoke through an interpreter. I heard things I had never heard before. I had never realized that the Bible is the source of God’s eternal truth.
In the past I had read and memorized passages from the Quran. I learned Islam for years, but God never spoke to me through its teachings. In contrast, when I read verses or heard messages from the Bible there was a different voice speaking a different message with a different authority.
I gathered the courage to go forward to the preacher to tell me more about Christ and the Bible. I asked him if a Muslim could also have access to the Bible and the heavenly Father. Could I too, know for sure about eternal life, forgiveness of sin, escape from hell, and becoming a child of God?
The preacher shared with me John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This verse alone has the answer to all religions. God sent His Son to die in our behalf because of the sin of all mankind. It takes only believing this truth to escape eternal hell. God did that out of love and the goodness of His heart; but also because He is a righteous judge. The judgment of God requires a penalty for sin. “The wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23a But God is also merciful; that is why he gives us the alternative: “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23b
The simple truth was too good to be true — but it is true, because it is God’s Word. I could not ignore God’s call to me — “Come, come, come.” “Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart.” Hebrews 3:7-8 And the more I read and heard the quotations from the Bible, the more I became convinced that God was speaking to me personally.
God’s Word continued addressing my heart. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” Hebrews 2:3 There is no escape from God’s eternal judgment on sinful man unless they come to acknowledge Who Jesus Christ is, and what He did for them. God gave a warning in case I hesitated to believe His Word: “Behold, now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation.” II Corinthians 6:2 That simply means that tomorrow can be too late. To reject Christ as Savior of the whole world brings the judgment of God, who provided His Son to take our place on the cross of Calvary. Does it matter what all other religions teach? No. Why? Because God’s eternal truth does not change.
Finally, after years of agony I was led to the truth, the Lord — my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is God; He is the truth; He is the giver of life; He is the only way of salvation.
Dear Muslim friend, remember, you will stand some day before the throne of God, just by yourself. Would you be able to stand God’s judgment?
Christians — those who believe Christ as their Savior — are no longer under God’s judgment, because God already judged them in the Person of Christ. He died for them. Well, He died for you too.
Now, may I ask you, what would stop you from telling God right now that you are a sinner and that you want Christ to save you? Trust Him as your Savior right now. Then there would be joy in heaven for the salvation of your precious soul.
I searched for truth for years, until God reached out of heaven and sent His servant the preacher to lead me to Christ. God is doing that now. You too can know the truth and enjoy the same spiritual freedom I have. “…and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
Dear Muslim friend, come join us in the spiritual freedom we have in Christ our Lord, and let us hear from you so we can rejoice with you.
Unfortunately, I found that the battery for our wireless microphone was dead this morning and there was no time to replace it before the interview. So, we talked into an old tape recorder for thirty minutes. Despite the quality of the recording, I trust you will find it to be a blessing.
Click here to download the mp3.
Click here for a list of sermons mp3s.
1. Who will win the Ohio State-Michigan game?
2. Tell us about your upbringing.
3. When were you saved?
4. With what ministries have you been involved?
5. Why did you choose to become an evangelist?
6. What is an evangelist?
7. How many churches do you visit each year?
8. How does the traveling affect your family?
9. Why travel in a mini-van instead of a fifth wheel?
10. What is your definition of fundamentalism?
11. Are the fundamentals enough to determine with whom you will fellowship?
12. Why are some fundamentalists leaning toward conservative evangelicals like MacArthur, Piper, and Mohler?
During the week of youth meetings at the school and church, he and I had several interesting discussions about Christian colleges, evangelism, and fundamentalism. One of the most interesting conversations had to do with his visits to Russia in the early 90’s. You’ve heard of the registered and unregistered churches in Russia, right? Until this conversation, I always thought the registered churches were the compromisers while the others were the faithful few. According to Dr. Duffy, that isn’t necessarily true. Registration with the government was a voluntary thing at the beginning which later turned into a tool for government control. So, many of the pastors of registered churches later disobeyed the government’s demands and spent time in jail for their faithfulness.
Some fifteen years after the registration process was implemented, a group representing about 600 pastors came to the government to agree to registration as long as there would be no control over what they preached. Astoundingly, the government agreed to this. These pastors formed a group called the Autonomous Registered Churches which in Dr. Duffy’s opinion is the best of the three groups.
He met one of these pastors during his visit to Russia. The man in charge of the trip almost cancelled a visit to a particular church because it had been verified that the pastor had been part of a Billy Graham crusade in Russia. Thankfully, the pastor convinced the visiting group to meet with him before cancelling the meeting. During that meeting, they found out that the pastor had not been promoting the meeting but had just visited it. Up until that point, the pastor had never heard of Graham and was curious as to who he was. Dr. Duffy learned from this situation that one must be slow to judge these pastors until the whole situation is known. They know so much less about current religious trends than we do.
It was also at this meeting that the group learned about the Autonomous Registered Churches. Apparently, this group is the best of the three mentioned above. The unregistered churches did take a stand against the government, but they also had some strange beliefs and practices. Besides the men greeting one another with a kiss on the lips (Duffy says you learn to put your hand out for a shake rather quickly after the first “kiss”), the unregistered churches send all their offering money to the seven apostles which oversee all the unregistered churches in Russia. Dr. Duffy likened that to a Roman Catholic hierarchical structure.
From his visits to Russia, he came to an important conclusion. When judging a particular pastor or church, one must look at the direction their feet are pointing. (This was suggested to him by Fred Moritz of Baptist World Mission.) You might be able to work with a pastor who is moving in the right direction. But it would be problematic to work with someone moving in the wrong direction. For example, a fundamentalist pastor could work with a GARBC church which recognizes the problems and is seeking to move away from the error. Their feet are pointed in the right direction. But the same fundamentalist pastor would have difficulty working with a fundamental church which is promoting new evangelicalism. They might be presently in a right position, but their direction is opposite of what is right.
As I said, before, the time with Dr. Duffy was beneficial to me. I enjoyed the opportunity to bounce questions off someone who is both older, wiser, and more experienced in the ministry than I am. In the near future, I hope to publish a short interview from questions I asked him about his ministry. Stay tuned.
Pastor Ashbrook is one of the men I looked up to in my first years of ministry. While attending the Bible Institute of Ohio (1990-93), I was able to hear him speak each year during the William Ashbrook Lectures (named after his father). Later, as I worked through the idea of biblical separation, I read through his books and found them to be helpful as I formulated my own understanding of what the Bible said about the subject. I know that these books have been helpful to many others as well.
Because of the impact Pastor Ashbrook has made for the Lord, I asked several of my Bible class students to interview him and write a short biography about him. Those papers were interesting to read, but I wanted to know more. So, after one of our weekly pastor’s prayer meeting, he allowed me to interview him. This article is a combination of that interview and the papers submitted by those high school students. I hope that what is written will be a blessing especially to all who read it.
John Edward Ashbrook was born in Hubbard, Ohio, on May 13, 1926, to the Rev. William and Gertrude Ashbrook. He was the second of four children and the only boy. Having graduated from high school in 1943, “he decided to attend Wheaton College as a chemistry major. When the war broke out [he] decided to sign up while he was still too young to be drafted so he could pick where he’d like to go. In May of 1944 he joined the Navy and went into a V-12 program at [Northwestern] University in Evanston, Illinois” (McLean 1).
“After his discharge he spent one year as a chemical engineer for a research institute. He then realized the Lord was calling him into the ministry. He went back for one more year at Wheaton College and then [attended] Faith Theological Seminary in Wilmington, Delaware [during the years 1948-51]” (Hegreness 1). To put things into perspective, he and Jim Elliot were contemporaries at Wheaton when the school was still a trusted Christian college.
“Pastor Ashbrook became the pastor of Bible Community Church of North Mentor in November of 1952 where he served for forty-six years before retiring in 1998. He remain[ed on staff] as the pastor emeritus. He has been in wonderful association with the Ohio Bible Fellowship since 1968. He [is] also the publisher of Here I Stand Books and the author of New Neutralism II and Axioms of Separation” (Flack 1). He has also written a pamphlet entitled “A Bird’s Eye Tour of the Bible” and a book for families entitled Family Fundamentals. His “ministry in books [has] been shared with people all over the world, including places such as Canada, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Netherlands, and Germany” (McLean 2).
His family has been an integral part of his ministry. He and his first wife, Virginia, were married for forty years (1955-95) and were blessed with two children. Two plaques adorn Section A of Bible Community Church to honor their service to the congregation. The loss was very difficult for him, but the Lord was his special comfort. Several years later, he met June McKnight, a widowed pastor’s wife from Maryland. They were married in 1999. The Lord gave them six years together during which they ministered together in several countries. This was the Mrs. Ashbrook I knew. She was always an encouragement to our young family. We were all saddened when she passed away in 2005.
In his later years, Pastor Ashbrook did not travel as much. However, the people of Bible Community Church were blessed to have him as an adult Sunday School teacher and for at least one message a month. After a short period of illness, Pastor Ashbrook passed away December 20, 2011, at the age of 85.
Pastor Ashbrook allowed me to interview him on a Monday in November of 2005. The following is based on my hand-written transcription of his answers to my questions:
1. Tell us about your salvation.
The Lord saved him at the age of twelve while his father was the pastor of Glen Echo United Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio. He believes it was during an evangelistic meeting. After responding to the invitation, he was counseled in the choir room behind the platform. However, he later came to a crisis point at the age of 18 while he was in the service. After dealing with some personal issues, the Lord gave him peace about his salvation. Over the years, the Lord has convinced him that he was converted at age twelve.
2. The majority of your ministry has been spent at Bible Community Church (Mentor OH). How long have you been here? Is this the only church you have pastored?
After his graduation from Faith Theological Seminary, he did not think that a single man could serve as a pastor. So, he traveled as an evangelist for a short time. An evangelist by the name of Jack Murray had more requests than he could fill, so he passed along the contact information to the young graduate. He noted that most of the contacts wanted Murray not some “newbie” and some of them were churches with serious problems. But these meetings kept him busy for about a year.
In 1951, he was asked to be the speaker for the Odell’s Lake Bible Conference. This was a conference started by Harland Odell of the Gospel Tabernacle in Canton, Ohio. During the conference he met the pastor of the Bible Community Church of North Mentor as well as the Hurst and Miner families. The pastor asked him to speak for their Easter service. But the board refused to pay the honorarium as the pastor had not cleared that with them ahead of time! Fortunately, the youth group pitched in $5 to cover the cost of driving from Columbus. (Gas was only 25¢ per gallon at the time.) He was dating Virginia at the time and told her he was glad he was not called there. Apparently, the parking lot was full of weeds and mud.
After that pastor left the church, he and Bill Fulton (one of the first graduates of Fuller Theological Seminary) took turns filling the pulpit. During the summer of 1952, he conducted a joint Vacation Bible School there with the nearby Plains Gospel Church in what is now Mentor-on-the-Lake. That fall, he was asked to become the pastor. His father told him that he should try it for six months to see what he thought. That trial stage lasted forty-six years. The Lord blessed during those beginning years by saving some people rather quickly and establishing them for the work.
3. What was the driving force that motivated you to start writing books and pamphlets? How did that affect your ministry (good and bad ways)?
He was a member of the IFCA when the administration decided to be less vocal about separatism. The members of the Ohio regional fought this change but eventually withdrew to form the Ohio Bible Fellowship. This conflict opened his eyes to the problems of new evangelicalism and a lack of separatism. Some time later, Bob Jones University invited him to teach in their Doctor of Ministry program. He was paired with Dr. Stenholm (one of the original BJU men) to speak about biblical separation for one week. After putting so much effort into those class notes, he decided to convert them into the text of his booklet, Axioms of Separation.
He helped his father to complete the last editions of The New Neutralism. So, when his father passed away, he decided to continue the book in a second edition, The New Neutralism II. He wrote most of the book in his spare time, but did spend two weeks doing research in the fundamentalist files at Bob Jones University. He had the pleasure of staying with Dr. David Beale, author of In Pursuit of Purity, during that time.
4. Your father was a militant separatist. Did you ever doubt your father’s convictions? And what led you to become a separatist?
His father, William E. Ashbrook, seemed too extreme in his views to the young Ashbrook. But time revealed to him his father’s wisdom. Toward the end of his schooling at Wheaton, he narrowed his seminary choices down to Dallas Theological Seminary and Faith Theological Seminary. The decision seemed so important that he skipped classes and prayed all afternoon. The Lord made it clear that Faith was the right choice. His training at that fundamental institution strengthened his convictions. One of the courses he took, “Modern Religious Problems,” was taught by none other than Carl McIntire.
It was later, after a period of time in the ministry, that he was forced to take a stand on certain issues. He was confronted with the ecumenism of organizations such as Youth for Christ. And after a while, he began to see that his father was not as extreme as he had once thought. His father had always said, “Where is this thing going?” That statement has been helpful to him in discerning the direction of movements and organizations. It doesn’t look so bad now, but what about later?
5. You define fundamentalism as “the militant belief and proclamation of the basic doctrines of Christianity leading to a Scriptural separation from those who reject them.” Why do you consider separation as part of the definition? Does this include secondary separation?
He said that anybody who is militant in his defense of the fundamentals will eventually be forced to separate. The key passage for him is 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1. Secondary separation to him is nothing more than consistency. Several churches in the area have supported the Billy Graham crusade. If our church did not support it but continued the fellowship, he believes the church would eventually weaken its position until they were supporting the crusade. You can tell your boy not to swear (primary separation) but also tell him not to run with the boys who swear (secondary separation). Consistency may involve third or fourth steps. But if someone is disobedient, don’t join the disobedience.
6. Because you talk so much about separation, some consider you to be an imbalanced, hyper-sensitive separatist. How would you answer those allegations?
He believes that a church is built on consistent Bible preaching. When that happens, people will know the Word of God. His father was known as a separatist, but he built Calvary Bible Church (Columbus OH) on the Bible not a separation message every Sunday. He has been “branded” because he is often asked to speak regarding separation. But if you looked over his sermon file, you would find that he has not been imbalanced.
7. Who are some of the “famous” fundamentalists you have met?
He has known Carl McIntire (as a professor at Faith Seminary), Robert T. Ketcham (who would visit his father’s home in between train trips through Columbus), J. Oliver Buswell, Harold S. Laird (whom he considered to be one of the greatest exegetes of Scripture), Merril MacPherson (pastor of Church of the Open Door in Philadelphia; he baptized William Ashbrook), and Charles Woodbridge (who was the lawyer for McIntire’s trial).
8. What makes for a successful ministry?
The preacher’s basic job is to preach the Word. He believes that the church people should hear the Word of God in an interesting way. “Where there is hay, the cows will show up.”
9. What are the most significant challenges that face younger pastors today?
Every preacher must adjust his preaching to the time he is facing. Knowing what to say will dawn on you as you preach. While preachers should keep up to date with the times, some young men have tried to update the gospel. There are different problems and applications but the gospel has not changed. Post-modernism with its philosophy of no absolutes is also a problem. It has led people to speak what they think without any need for evidence. But God’s absolutes are eternal. Though some don’t like absolutes, they will be judged by them one day. So, young preachers should preach the absolutes of the Scripture no matter what the others do.
Flack, Ben, “Pastor John E. Ashbrook.”
Hegreness, Jeff, “Pastor John E. Ashbrook.”
McLean, Rachel, “Pastor John E. Ashbrook.”
Rupert, Andy, Interview Notes, November 2005.
Obituary of Rev. John E. Ashbrook as viewed on 3/30/2019.