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.”
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.
This past Sunday we completed our journey through the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, focusing our study on Ezekiel. We discovered in Ezekiel a book filled with dark visions and confrontational language. And one of the visions (probably the central, controlling metaphor of the book) Ezekiel presents is Israel as a beautiful bride who turns against her bridegroom, God, and breaks all the stipulations of her covenant.
Day Thirty: Vistas of Wisdom
I am very near the end of this little writing experiment called “31 Proverbs.” While I’m unsure how helpful it has been to how ever many have read it, I know that the process of sitting down six days each week to read, ponder, and then ponder some more by plunking on a keyboard has helped me grow in my understanding of wisdom.
Day Thirty-Two: A Mother's Wisdom (part two)
Yesterday, we heard from what was likely King Solomon’s mother imparting worthy words of wisdom in the area of leadership. For the sayings of wisdom we find here are those “which his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1). And she now turns her attention to the search for a woman of virtue and noble character, suitable to be a wife and mother.
Day Twenty-Nine: Please—Quietly Hold Your Tongue
Anger. noun. “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” (New Oxford American Dictionary) As I entered day twenty-nine of Proverbs this morning, and came to 29:11, it struck me that this book has quite a bit to say about anger, strife, wrath, quarreling, fights, and rage. It is a theme that Solomon keeps coming back to, probably because he knows that it is a theme woven through humanity and history. Sometimes the best way to see a theme is to pull on that string so all the wisdom he has offered comes together for our observation. The accumulation helps us feel the weight of it.