This year I am once again using the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World to guide my prayers for my Muslim neighbors during Ramadan. It is available from WorldChristian.com, and this year focuses prayer on family life--"the place where most people first learn about faith, where our values are formed, and where we are influenced in more ways than we realize" (pg. 1, from the guide).
Last year, the publishers estimate one million Christians around the world used this guide to pray for Muslims. Given that I live in a community of around 63,000 people that also has an estimated 10,000+ Somali Muslim refugees among us, this is a golden opportunity for God to increase my love and compassion for this beautiful people who does not yet know Jesus as the Savior of the world. I would encourage you to use this resource to plead with our Father to give us bigger hearts to reach this particular people that make up those who still remain in darkness.
An additional resource to inform your thinking, evangelism, and praying comes by way of Joe Carter over at The Gospel Coalition, entitled "Nine Things You Should Know About Ramadan." I've attached it below for your perusal.
May God use us -- a people who have received mercy -- to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus to those still in darkness and apart from the light.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Pe 2:9–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)
Because Muslims account for 1.6 billion of our global neighbors, Christians need to become more aware of Ramadan and Islamic practices. Here are nine things you should know about Islam’s holiest month.
1. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Because it’s based on the lunar calendar, the beginning and end dates vary from year to year. This year in the United State Ramadan began on the evening of Friday, May 26, and ends on Saturday, June 24.
2. The Qur’an claims that it was during the month of Ramadan that Mohammed received his revelation from Allah:
The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey—then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for your ease and does not intend for your hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.
3. Islamic tradition holds that three of the religion’s other holy texts were also revealed during Ramadan: The Scriptures of Ibrahim on the first night of Ramadan, the Torah on the sixth of Ramadan, the Gospel on the 13th of Ramadan. (Note: The Islamic “gospel” is not the same as the four Gospels of Christianity. The Islamic view of the Bible is based on the belief that the Torah, Psalms, and Gospels were revelation from Allah that became distorted or corrupted. Muslims believe that Jesus was a Muslim prophet [a messenger of Allah], and that he was not the son of God.)
4. The Qur’an claims, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.” As the BBC notes, “Muslims believe that their good actions bring a greater reward during this month than at any other time of year, because this month has been blessed by Allah. They also believe that it is easier to do good in this month because the devils have been chained in hell, and so can't tempt believers. This doesn't mean that Muslims will not behave badly, but that any evil that they do comes from within themselves, without additional encouragement from Satan.”
5. Fasting during Ramadan, known as “sawm,” is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the basic religious duties for Muslims. The other four pillars are Shahadah (declaring there is no god except Allah, and Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger); Salat (ritual prayer five times a day); Zakat (compulsory charity for the poor, assessed at 2.5 percent of capital assets); and the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if he or she is able; the hajj takes place during the last ten days of the 12th lunar month).
6. Fasting during Ramadan begins 20 minutes before dawn (fajr) and ends at sundown (maghrib). All able-bodied adults are expected to participate in the fast. Children are exempt, as are the elderly, the ill, travelers, and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or menstruating.
7. The day’s fast is considered invalidated if the Muslim participates in any of the following activities from sunrise to sundown: eating or drinking, sexual activity, telling lies “about Allah and/or His Messenger,” immersing the entire head in water, deliberate inhalation of smoke, taking injections whereby nourishing liquids reach the stomach, deliberate vomiting, intentionally passing an object through the throat or any other natural opening (including chewing gum).
8. If Muslims miss or invalidate their fast they must make up the missed fast days before the next Ramadan begins. The missed days can be made up any time during this period, on consecutive days or separately.
9. In some Muslim countries, failing to fast during Ramadan can bring civil penalties. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, where the Qur’an is considered a constitutional document, all people including foreigners and tourists of other faiths are required to fast when in public. In 2013, Saudi officials warned, “Those who are caught will be examined and will face legal action commensurate with their violation. Punishment could be a prison term or lashes or both while foreigners could, in addition, be deported from the kingdom.”
Preparation For Holy Week
If you were here on Sunday, then you know that we will not be leaving Paul’s letter to the Philippians as the text for our Good Friday and Easter Sunday services.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
First, it is Palm Sunday. Which means it is the beginning of a week of remembering the most important events in the history of the world: the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, his last meal with his disciples, his death at the hands of sinful men as the result of a sham sentence in a kangaroo court, his burial by those who loved him, and his resurrection from the dead just three days later. All of it for the salvation and rescue of the world.
One of the dangers of reading the stories of those followers of Jesus that we find in the Bible is we can treat them as if they are almost super-human.
In the unsearchable counsel of God's will for the world, he has so designed that salvation will come through the church, that body of people gathered by the power of his Holy Spirit.
The Whole Story: Ephesians-Week Two
I attempted to show in the sermon this past Sunday that Paul offers us two anchor points for our lives, and upon which our lives depend.
Why Should I Read The Bible?
Most days I love waking up, coffeeing up, praying up, and then gobbling up the Bible. But not every day. I’m just like you in that. I need reminding about why the Bible — God’s Whole Story — is an important part of my day, for every other part of my day.