Thinking Out Loud

June 7, 2018

A Ramadan Lesson for Christians

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:00 am

img 060718Guest post by Lorne Anderson

There are two weeks left in the month in which Muslims have a religious obligation to fast during daylight hours. Most of those reading this probably haven’t given that much thought.

When Ramadan falls in December the fast is relatively easy. Not so at this time of year, where there is 15 hours between sunrise and sunset where I live. It’s a total fast – no water allowed either.

It is a spiritual discipline that puts most Christians to shame. Mind you, it comes more from fear than grace. Many Muslims fast more due to social pressures than out of any religious conviction.

What conversations are you having with your Muslim neighbors this month? Have you talked about their fast, or about Christian traditions of fasting, and the differences? Have you shared the love and freedom that Jesus brings? Has your church done anything to reach out to the Muslim community?

I ask this because I was at a fast-breaking event on the first Saturday of Ramadan. It was a community event, families coming together to share a meal. More than that, it was an outreach event But it wasn’t put on by Christians — this was a Muslim outreach..

Members of this particular Muslim community had been told they should invite their non-Muslim friends to share the meal. Looking around the room it seemed to me that most had either not bothered or been unsuccessful. There were obviously very few of us who were not part of the tribe. In that way it reminded me of some church outreach events I have attended – we too aren’t always good at inviting our friends to our events.

Language was an issue, as this is an immigrant community. The woman who invited me is a language school classmate. After four months we have enough German for extremely simple conversations, but have not yet reached the point where we can touch on faith matters. And neither of us speaks the other’s mother tongue.

The organizers though recognized that could be an issue. There was a German-born Muslim who made sure to stop by any table with visitors. He is the one who talked about their community and Ramadan and how they wanted to share with those around them. At least I think that is what he was saying. Certainly he was there to put people at ease, to be the smiling face of Islam. After all, anyone there was probably likely to be somewhat open-minded –  they came because of a relationship they already had with a Muslim. If it wasn’t a positive one, they wouldn’t have come to the meal.

Which got me to thinking. Two things really.

The first is, how well do we do at outreach to those not of our tribe? We have events at Christmas, Easter and other times of the year, but how many personal invitations do we make to non-Christian friends? Few, judging from the events I have attended. I know I probably haven’t done enough. We can’t ever do enough. And how easy is it for someone not of our tribe to just walk through the door?

The second thing is, what are we doing from Ramadan? No, I am not suggesting adopting the fast or emulating Islamic legalism. But Ramadan is more than just fasting, it is a daily cycle of deprivation and celebration, with a huge party at the end of the month.

It is probably too late to organize an end-of-Ramadan outreach event, for this year anyway. But there is nothing to stop you from inviting your Muslim neighbors to join your family for a fast-breaking meal in your home sometime in the next week or so. Yes, that means a late night, you won’t be eating until after nine. And don’t forget the dietary restrictions, so you don’t embarrass yourself and your guests. It is a perfect tie to show Christian hospitality.

Many Muslims are immigrants. They have often been met with fear and suspicion in their new countries. They come from countries where family and community are extremely important – and they may never have been invited into to a family home in their new country. They see this new country as being Christian – and being deficient in hospitality. You can change that perception.

This month is Ramadan. How are you observing it?

Lorne Anderson blogs daily at Random Thoughts from Lorne

March 9, 2011

Wednesday Link List

I think we’ll start with a shout out to all the people who gave up social networking and blogs for lent. In which case, why are you reading this?

  • We kick off with a few quotations from an interview U2’s Bono did with a Johannesburg radio station last month, along with a link to an audio file of the entire program.
  • The Rob Bell release date for Love Wins has been moved up by two weeks to March 15th, less than a week away!  Mars Hill Bible Church in Granville, Michigan has made no official comment, but on Sunday, parishioners were told that church staff are supportive and excited about the book’s release.
  • However, Jon Rising suggests that there’s a whole other controversial book releasing at HarperOne — the same day — and traces links to advance reviews of Miroslav Volf’s simply titled Allah: A Christian Response.   The publisher blurb helps define the book’s hot spots.
  • A young Christian woman tells her Christian father that she is gay. We’ve all heard stories like this, but what does that actually look like?  How does that play out exactly? John Shore takes what is, to many of us a very abstract concept, and spells out what that really looks like in many families in his fictional Smith Family Chronicles; episode one and episode two already complete with more to follow.
  • A couple of strong stories at Christian Week (three actually, and we’ll give each one its own bullet!). First a piece on how urban poverty is not a downtown thing anymore but is hitting the suburbs featuring the director of the Yonge Street Mission.  (In fact, urban downtown areas are reconsolidating into a very upscale vibe.)
  • Next, a piece about the relationship between the church and political debates sparked by Billy Graham’s statement that he regrets the times he waded in on political issues.
  • Last in our CW hat trick — and I don’t expect my U.S. readers to get the full impact of this, but here this is huge — Crossroads, Canada’s largest Christian television ministry gave InterVarsity Christian Fellowship five of its Circle Square Ranch summer camps.  No strings attached.  An outright gift from one ministry to another.  They become part of the ministry of IVCF as of the first of April.
  • I find it interesting that many of today’s younger preachers are the subject of condemnation by older ones because the younger ones don’t do expository (verse by verse) preaching.  But Andy Stanley really rose to the occasion in this series on Acts titled Big Church.
  • Okay, it’s not that Facebook is solely responsible for one in five divorces as originally reported in 2009; but it is definitely accelerating the process.
  • Spent about 40 minutes on Sunday night enjoying a mini-concert by an artist who is quite established here in Canada who needs to be shared with the rest of the world.  Check out Greg Sczebel’s website.
  • Got baggage?  Know someone who’s got baggage?  Check out this short video at GodTube.  Also at GodTube here’s a music clip from Christy Nockels from the new album Passion: Waiting Here For You.
  • Looking for some good news online?  Here’s a site with a difference: My Miracle invites readers to post stories of God’s intervention in their lives.  Maybe your story.
  • Got a question for The Pope?  He hits the Italian TV airwaves on Good Friday for a little bit of Q & A in a pre-recorded program.
  • Several months ago, this blog ran a piece on modesty for girls.  Now here’s a modesty test for your preteen or early teen daughter from Dannah Gresh’s Secret Keeper Girl website.
  • If you’re reading this Wednesday morning or afternoon you can still catch our contest from Monday to win a copy of One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.
  • Here’s another one from Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like featuring all your favorite types of church songleaders.
  • And speaking of same; here’s CT’s list of the Top 27 All Time Favorite… Hymns?  That’s right, all scientifically calculated using books which contain them that nobody actually uses anymore.  This could be the very last such list.  (Click the image to see the chart clearer as a .pdf)
  • Our cartoon this week recognizes that today is the first day of Lent, which every good Evangelical knows is the _____  ____s before ________.  (Betcha we caught a few off-guard.) Bad Sheep is the product of Jay Cookingham who blogs at Soulfari, You can also click the image below to check out Lambo and Chop’s merchandise.

January 8, 2011

Should Churches Rent Space to Other Faith Groups?

Martin left a comment at the end of Wednesday’s Link List this week that I promised myself I would spin off into a separate discussion, so that any of you who wished could join the thread. First, here’s what I wrote; it’s the first of the two links that matter, but for those of you who read this from Canada and will get the context, I’ve left the second link in as well:

  • While some “Christian” pastors — one anyway — want to burn the Qu’ran, Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tennessee has “a more welcoming approach.” ” Steve Stone and his congregants put out a sign welcoming incoming neighbors at the Memphis Islamic Center. The church then allowed these Muslim neighbors to use their sanctuary as a makeshift mosque throughout Ramadan while the Islamic Center was under construction.”  Read more at Christianity Today.
  • As strange as that story may be, it’s also the basis for a Canadian situation comedy now in its 5th season.  The new season of Little Mosque on the Prairie kicked off on Monday night with an episode that makes the Imam look a lot more appealing — i.e. “nicer” — than the Anglican minister who is renting the Islamic congregation its space.   Watch past episodes at CBC-TV.

A day later, this was Martin’s comment:

Brilliant…a pastor turns a Christian church into a place that allows a 1400 year old cult to practice their blasphemous faith. What would Jesus do? Would that same church lovingly open its arms to a Wiccan ritual service in their basement? Think not!

It doesn’t matter how many practice this cult or how accepted it is (by forced ‘tolerance’ imposed by daftly ignorant political proponents), the Muslim faith is anti-semetic, anti-christian and encourages shari’a law that oppresses its women.

Why not open your church to the needy, the unfortunate, the mother and child with no place to stay…a few cots and a shower stall. But open doors to a cult that believes Christianity’s Christ was too good to die for our sins? … That believes that it’s okay to ‘Slay them (Christians, Jews) where you find them’ (or tax the living crap out of them if they don’t convert)… That believes the only way to know the Q’uran’s truth is to learn Arabic – ancient Arabic?

Yeah, sure…c’mon in…it’s stupid in here.

Waiter, I’ll take my reality-cheque now.

The first thing I need to do here obviously is insert a disclaimer.  The views expressed in the comment above and those that follow are those of the writers. There are variances among followers of the Islamic faith just as there are variances among the practices of various Christian denominations. I’m not looking for comments here as to the essence of Muslim doctrine and ethics.

I am simply looking for further responses to Martin’s comment.

The CT article seemed to put a positive spin on this — certainly justified in light of the other option I mention in the link list — but the CT comments are not as kind:

  • Muslims believe Jesus was just a prophet and that he married and moved to Asia where he died. He was not resurrected, he definitely is not the Son of God. So, when they enter a sanctuary and worship there it means to other Muslims that they have conquered for Islam the territory they have moved into and which is owed to Muslims by God. Burning a Koran or a Bible doesn’t match burning to death non Muslims in their worship space and their homes in Muslim minds… (Anna)
  • Evangelize them, debates them, pray for them, love them, and demonstrate the Fruit of the Spirit, but please do not allow them to worship in your Sanctuary or use any of your grounds. I suggest to those who think this is okay to research how Islamic Law implements property rights… (former Muslim student)
  • …That besides however, I must say that lending them facilities, buildings or whatever else have you that were built by the sometimes hard earned money and resources of Christians now gone. It’s an absolute NO NO! It will create confusion among new and young believers and among our children. I believe 1st Cor. 10:21; Eph. 5:6,7; 1st Pet. 4:4; 2nd Jn. 1:10,11 correctly applies here among others… (Salero)
  • I’ve been involved with reaching out to Muslims the last 20 years. Offering a church facility to be used for the purposes of a Mosque is not a good idea. There is an entire spiritual element that is present and proclaimed that is unbiblical. Just read Galatians 1:6-9 to begin to pick up on the spiritual implications. It is far better to be Biblical than try to demonstrate some form of religious correctness… (Mark)
  • …I see no reason why a church should not use its building as a means to help a group of Muslims, especially if part of their purpose is to demonstrate Christ’s love with a view to possible evangelism.  [and then, just 20 minutes later] …We certainly don’t wish to further the cause of a false religion, and allowing them to worship in our facility may do just that. On the other hand, a building is just a building, and those who compare it to a temple or a sacred site seem to be confusing Old and New Testament places of worship… (Galen)
  • While I could understand the good neighborliness of offering space for non-worship activities, I think the author has missed the point of view of many strict Muslims. Once worship of Allah has taken place in a venue, it has been “sanctified” by that, and reverting to Christian worship (which Muslims see as heretical, since Christians are seen by them as among those who have “gone astray”) would be problematic for Muslims… (Phyllis)
  • 2 Corinthians 6:16 states “… what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” Yes, personally we are to show love to all, no matter what their beliefs. But to facilitate the false worship of Islam in a Christian church is totally different and has nothing to do with Christian love… (John)
  • Christ drove the money changers from the temple for misusing that sacred space. An Islamic worship service is a similar misuse of a sacred space. Our attempts to be Christ-like should be rooted in scripture and truth, not vague impressions about what we think Christ would do.  (D.S.)
  • So, Pastor Stone, you’re saying that in your mind Jesus would find it acceptable for the Golden Calf that the Israelites were worshiping to be bought into your church and worshiped again? I agree with the struggle to figure out how to best love the Muslims of the world. But sanctioning false worship and idolatry is not the way to go about it. In our rush to love we go to extremes. It does not have to be Stone’s method or the Burn the Koran method. We should find the balance in between where we can love but still hold fast to Truth.  (Michael)

Looks like Martin held the majority view.  These are just a few of the comments left at CT and it may well be you choose to add yours using the link at the very top of this post.

And what about other faith groups?  Are there some groups whose presence you would consider acceptable?

January 5, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Here’s a new list to kick off a new year…

  • While some “Christian” pastors — one anyway — want to burn the Qu’ran, Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tennessee has “a more welcoming approach.” ” Steve Stone and his congregants put out a sign welcoming incoming neighbors at the Memphis Islamic Center. The church then allowed these Muslim neighbors to use their sanctuary as a makeshift mosque throughout Ramadan while the Islamic Center was under construction.”  Read more at Christianity Today.
  • As strange as that story may be, it’s also the basis for a Canadian situation comedy now in its 5th season.  The new season of Little Mosque on the Prairie kicked off on Monday night with an episode that makes the Imam look a lot more appealing — i.e. “nicer” — than the Anglican minister who is renting the Islamic congregation its space.   Watch past episodes at CBC-TV.
  • The girl who recorded “Wait for Me” in 2000 is done waiting.  News yesterday that Christian singer Rebecca St. James is engaged to marry Jacob Fink who has a background in missions, television production and music. Proposal: Christmas Day. Wedding date: TBA.
  • The number of abusive priest lawsuits in a Milwaukee diocese has forced it to declare bankruptcy.  But a victims’ lawyer says it’s only being done to protect identities, and will merely delay the process.
  • This item was the runner up on Perry Noble’s top 2010 posts:  Ten Questions That Unchurched People Are Not Asking (Sample: #8 – “Does your pastor teach exegetically through the Scriptures?” Hey, it’s a dealbreaker, right?)
  • Tucked away in a little corner of James MacDonald’s (Walk in the Word) website is this tidbit of news:  “And this is amazing…We received a donation of a 20-million-dollar television production facility. The studio and the technology it provides will enable Walk in the Word to produce greater resources to reach more people.”  Not the first time something like this (i.e. Harvest Bible Chapel’s land in Elgin, Illinois) has dropped into their laps!
  • Does God withhold blessings from me because of my sins (even sins that have been forgiven)?  That’s the question Dana asked at Upwrite.  “…it is about the possibility of freedom from beating myself up over the things I might have missed out on because of my sins.”  Anyone care to leave her an answer?
  • And then, this testimony: “My backstory isn’t a pretty one. In fact, I didn’t even begin life as an sweet little planned bundle of joy. My mom was raped and I was the result. I was adopted by two wonderful parents who loved me and raised me as their own. But from the age of 3 until about the age of 12 my concept of love became skewed and shattered as I was repeatedly molested and raped by two different people in my family.I was pregnant at 17.”  That’s Stephanie Shott’s story.  Read the rest at her guest post at Jenni Catron’s blog.
  • This week I checked out the website affiliated with a book that released in November:  Besides The Bible – 100 Books that Have, Should, or Will Create Christian Culture.  The publisher blurb promises, “Covering a wide array of subjects and authors, from Christian bookstore best sellers to classics of Christian history and more, you’ll find yourself agreeing with some titles, shaking your head at others, and even shocked by a few.”  Here’s the WordPress blog for Besides the Bible.
  • 265 Journal pages containing 214 entries later,  John Piper is back from his leave of absence, and condenses his report in a much, much shorter summary at Desiring God.
  • Bored during church or that expensive ministry conference?  Jim Lehmer is back with an entirely updated version of Christian Buzzwords Bingo.   Each refresh of the page gets you a new bingo card!
  • Want to send a shout out to long-time friend Al Clarkson for keeping me posted on things I might have missed.   (Like this and the next two entries.)  Here’s Alpha Course founder Nicky Gumbel speaking at the Lausanne Conference.
  • Canada’s popular Christian musician, Steve Bell — who we linked to last week — scored some major press here this week in the prestigious business insert to a national newspaper.  You can catch both items at once at this bookstore industry blog.
  • And at the same blog, at age 102, George Beverley Shea is to receive a Lifetime Achieve Award in conjunction with The Grammy Awards.
  • Last week we linked to Derek Webb’s piece at Huffington Post, and this week you can read Frank Turk’s very firm response, and the 250 comments it generated.
  • And at the blog, On The Fence (tagline: A Skeptical Screenwriter and a Christian Pastor Talk About Faith) Travis comments on reading Greg Boyd’s Myth of a Christian Nation over the holidays. Not sure if Frank Turk would approve of Boyd.
  • Our photo below is a flashback to a 2009 post at the now defunct blog, Cool Things in Random Places. It’s a picture of The Door to Hell. Really. The link gets you many more pictures and videos.

The Door to Hell, is situated near the small town of Darvaz in Turkmenistan.  Thirty-five years ago, geologists were drilling for gas when then encountered a very large cavern underground filled with a poisonous gas.  They ignited the gas expecting it to burn off in a few hours.  The gas is still burning to this day. Its 60 meters in diameter and 20 meters depth have not been caused by volcanic activity or a meteorite impact.This crater was created sometime in the 50’s when the Soviets were prospecting for natural gas in this area and it’s been burning since then.

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