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Grateful

turkish dad and daughter

I preached a sermon last week about gratitude. Arguably the best part of it was a video clip of Ann Voskamp talking about gratitude. The darkest moment was actually saying the words, “Attitude of gratitude!” While I’m usually pretty immune to being affected by my own sermons, this one has got me thinking. I’m actually trying to apply Ann’s challenge to write down three things you’re thankful for each day. It’s a smart practice on many levels. 

Can I share with you three things I’m thankful for in regard to Muslims? 

  1. I’m thankful that the Saudi crown prince announced his intention to return the kingdom to a more moderate approach to Islam. I’m politically naive and perennially hopeful, but I take this as good news. 
  2. I’m grateful for the Muslims who taught me to enjoy new foods and beverages: Jordanians who introduced me to coffee and knafeh; Indians who shared nan and biryani; and the kind and crusty old Turkish guy who introduced me to Adana kebabs and beer. 
  3. I’m grateful for my friend Ismael who’s taught me about kindness, generosity and risky compassion. In many ways he looks a lot more like Jesus than I do. 

Feeling some gratitude related to Muslims in your life? Share it here

And now a challenge: Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays, is just around the corner. There might not be an easier time to take a risk and invite a Muslim family to dinner. And “What am I thankful for” is a built in conversation starter! Maybe this seems easy to you. Great. If not, if you have questions or concerns, please post them here and I’ll address them. 

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Tribute to Nabeel Qureshi

Adobe Spark (58)

A member of our tribe died this past week. A leader, actually. 

Nabeel Qureshi grew up in a warm Pakistani family as a faithful, practicing Muslim. After an arduous intellectual and spiritual journey, he began to follow Jesus as a young adult in 2005.

His love for Jesus and for Muslims led him to a career as an apologist, arguing winsomely and relentlessly for the truth of the Gospel. His book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus has seen unprecedented success and has impacted untold numbers of people. 

In August of 2016, Nabeel shared on Facebook, “My family and I have received the news that I have advanced stomach cancer, and the clinical prognosis is quite grim.” In the midst of intense, global prayer, Nabeel died last Saturday, September 16th at age 34. He leaves behind a wife and young daughter. 

He also leaves behind some pretty big shoes to fill. I’m grateful that his books and videos remain, but much work also remains. I pray that Nabeel’s death will inspire us to love Muslims more practically and fiercely, share the hope of Jesus more faithfully with both Muslims and Christians and pray without giving up for the fullness of God’s kingdom. 

If you want to help Nabeel’s wife and daughter, buy his book or give directly here.

To learn more, check out this blurb in the Missions Catalyst ezine, this article by his boss and friend, Ravi Zacharias or this kind overview by Justin Taylor. 

Will you join me in praying for comfort and hope for Nabeel’s family? Let’s also ask God to raise up many to carry forward his work. May his influence for God’s glory in death far exceed what has been seen so far. 

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Pray for the Rohingya

Adobe Spark (56)On the one hand, our oldest daughter gets married in two days! There’s not much happier than that. On the other hand, I’m reading about 250,000 Rohingya refugees who’ve fled from Burma to Bangladesh. Their scale of suffering is beyond what I can imagine and it’s making my head spin. 

The Rohingya are Muslims living in a predominantly Buddhist state. They are ethnically related to Bengalis and have been oppressed for decades. The current situation, and the history leading up to it, is murky at best. The Rohingya live in a geographically isolated part of Burma which is further cut off by government forces. I’m suspect of almost everything said about this situation. 

This much does seem clear: multiple tens of thousands of women, children and elderly are fleeing for their lives in the most deplorable conditions. They are driven out because they are Muslim, because they are minorities and because recently a few of their own, armed with primitive weapons have attacked police. 

What can you and I do? We can pray. God sees the situation clearly. He knows each name. And Jesus’s life and death show us that he loves the Rohingya more than we will ever know. 

Here are some prayer points:

  1. Pray for safe passage for Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, for strength and stamina, for water, food and shelter along the way. 
  2. Pray for proper government response both in Burma and beyond. Pray particularly for Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, who now leads Burma, to courageously respond to this crisis. 
  3. Pray for Bangladesh as they struggle to receive these refugees, for resources and hospitality. 
  4. Finally, pray for our hearts, that we would not grow cold to people suffering simply because of who they are. 

Please share this with others who might want to know about and pray for the Rohingya situation.

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Eid Al-Adha, Feast of Sacrifice

adha-in-the-injeel_cover

If you notice the plaintive bleating of sheep today, it might be due to Eid Al-Adha, the Islamic feast of sacrifice. It’s a fun celebration, if you’re not a sheep! 

For this the largest annual celebration of the Islamic year, sheep are killed, shared and eaten in commemoration of Abraham’s (Muslims tend to use “Ibrahim.”) obedience to offer his son, a story recounted in both the Bible and the Quran, and God’s provision at the last moment of an alternative sacrifice. 

Eid Al-Adha is a joyful time of family gatherings, gifts and special religious services. (You can read more here and here.) 

It’s also a great time for Christians to connect with Muslim friends and neighbors. 

Start with greetings both personal and on your Facebook page. “Eid Mubarak,” basically “Happy Eid,” is a good start. Depending on your relationships and time (Personally, we’re prepping for our daughter’s wedding at our house in a week, so I barely have time to brush my teeth!), consider some of these ideas as well: 

Take small presents (flowers or chocolates) to your Muslim friends and wish them a happy holiday. If you’re invited to a meal and your schedule allows, go! Seems like Jesus was doing this all the time!  Finally, grab a copy or five of this booklet written by my friend Fouad called “Adha in the Injeel.”  It talks about the foreshadowing found in Abraham’s action and the fullness of the sacrifice of Jesus. It’s designed to be read by both Christians and Muslims and to facilitate discussion about Jesus and his role in God’s great purposes.

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Why Hajj?

Adobe Spark (55)I’ll never forget sitting in the living room of a young Pakistani family in central California. Warm aromas of delicious food rose from the table, kids who’d been sent to bed peeked in and scampered about, and the couple’s words tumbled over each other’s as they recounted their recent pilgrimage to Mecca.

They’d been on Hajj and it had deeply affected them.

The wife beamed as she recalled, “We felt so clean right after Hajj.” Her broad smile was touched with a hint of sadness. “We longed for that feeling to last,” she shared, “but it faded all too quickly.”

Muslims go on Hajj for many reasons: obedience to God, religious obligation, a desire to celebrate community and spiritual self-improvement among others.

This year, Hajj begins on August 30 and runs until September 1st. I’d like to ask you to do two things:

Chat with a Muslim about Hajj. Learn from an insider about this huge event. Too often our views are shaped by the sensational stories we see on the news. Large scale bad things often happen at Hajj, but I think Jesus would have us empathize with the individual. Who knows what you might learn!
Pray for Muslims who are making the pilgrimage. Here’s a five minute video that explains the pilgrimage and gives some specific ways to pray. I’ll be praying for Jesus to show up in dreams and visions, continuing to offer his 2000 year old invitation to follow him. I’ll also pray against the mob-induced tragedies that have killed many during this time. And finally, I’ll ask God to work in such a way that the feeling of cleanness my friends in California experienced will actually endure. Will you pray with me and invite some buds to join us?

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Ten Things Christians Can Learn from Muslims

square 10 things xns can learn from mus

We have heavy stuff coming up in Muslim Connect in the weeks ahead, like looking at the Hajj and understanding Sharia. So I thought we’d lighten up this week with a tongue-in-cheek look at what Christians can learn from Muslims. I firmly believe that both Christians and Muslims can learn from each other, but this list is for fun! (And we’ll look at what Muslims can learn from Christians in a later week!)

  1. How to pray closer to “without ceasing.”
    Five. Times. A. Day! If you’re doing it for real, you stop what you’re doing and go someplace to pray. Say what you will, but that’s dedication.
  2. How to wash up for prayer.
    Oh, and there’s the clean up ahead of prayer. Christians can waltz straight from the potty to the pew!
  3. Where to find the best shawarma.
    OK, shawarma is not technically Muslim. But it is part of a suite of food, including baklava and falafel, that makes me sigh, “Alhamdulillah.”

  4. How to fast for a whole month!
    Is it easier to fast for a month if you eat a lot at night? Maybe it makes it harder. I don’t know, but I have heard that Ramadan is like Black Friday for Muslim grocers!

  5. How to dress modestly!
    Head to head, a salwar chemise beats a denim jumper any day!

  6. How to name your kids after your main guy.
    Muhammad may be the most popular name on the planet! At the same time, fewer Hispanics are naming their boys Jesus and American Christians almost never do! Want to join me in pressuring our kids to call any male grandchildren Jesus!

  7. How to enjoy life without bacon.
    Is this even possible? The thought makes me wonder two things: Have we underplayed the conversion possibilities of bacon? You know, “Become a Christian and enjoy all the bacon you want!”

  8. How to convert music stars to your faith.
    If I had a dollar for every time a Muslim has proudly told me, “Your Cat Stevens. . .he is Muslim now,” I’d buy a ticket on the peace train.

  9. Memorizing the holy book.
    Granted the Quran only really counts if its in Arabic and most Muslims don’t speak Arabic, but it sure wouldn’t kill me to edge toward “memorizing scripture like a Muslim!”

  10. How to hold big, religious festivals.
    In 2012, more than three million people showed up in Mecca for Hajj! That’s the population of Utah! (Which is home to a lot of people who know a thing or two about religious treks!)

    Next week we’ll take a more sober look at the Hajj, the reasons behind it, the effects Muslims seek and how we might pray for them during this time. 

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How Can You Help Your Pastor Lead Your Church in Regard to Islam?

tweaked pastor imageIt’s a tricky role, isn’t it? Guiding a group of disparate, messed up people on the way of Jesus? Prophet, teacher, counselor, referee and sometimes janitor. Pastors hear the worst of the worst, which might be juicy and interesting the first time or two, but not the 400th! They are expected to encourage and help believers navigate the present world while preparing for the future one. It’s no small task and I’m sure I’m not alone in my sense of empathy and respect. 

Islam poses a unique challenge for pastors. “How do I help my people think like God does about Islam? How do I help them love Muslims as Jesus does? What does it mean to be both Christian and American relative to these issues? How do I boldly, yet carefully, walk the prickly path between truth and political correctness, love and wisdom? Remembering that Jesus walked it well and it led him right to the cross.” 

Assuming most pastors aren’t pursuing advanced degrees in Islamic Theology, what might actually help them be the thought leaders in this arena we need them to be?

  1. Prayer: They know the Bible; they know Jesus. Ask God to help them wisely and courageously apply that knowledge. 
  2. Digestible resources: Get them a copy of Carl Medearis’s book, Muslims, Christians and Jesus. Forward this email to them and ask them to subscribe. Propose hosting a live Bridges Seminar or running the dvd-based study
  3. Immersion opportunities: I’m thinking “Un-Holy Land tours.” No churches to preach in, but tons of Muslims willing to engage in conversations about real life. I would happily help you facilitate this.

I’d also be happy to hear your ideas. What would help your pastor lead in regard to Islam?

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