Archive for September, 2010

Double Anniversary

September 10, 2010

This Saturday marks an unusual double anniversary: the end of the Muslim holy fast of Ramadan and the 9th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001 in Washington, New York City and Pennsylvania. This anniversary highlights the tension in a difficult and inflammatory issue in our society. One “Christian” group plans to stage a Qu’ran burning on Saturday in Gainesville, Florida. Mosques around the country are planning to heighten security because of the fear of attacks. How are we as Christians to approach Islam? On the one hand, the vast majority of muslims we meet are peace loving people. On the other hand, there is significant evidence that violent conquest of all “infidels” is woven into the fabric of that religion.

Genesis 16 is helpful. In that part of the Genesis story, Abram had not yet had the child of the promise. He and Sarai his wife were growing impatient. They agreed that he would have a child by Hagar, Sarai’s servant. When her pregnancy drove a wedge between them, Sarai mistreated Hagar who ran away. The following passage records her encounter with God.
Genesis 16:7-13 7 Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. 8 He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” 9 Then the angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” 10 Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” 11 The angel of the LORD said to her further, “Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. 12 “He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.” 13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?”

God was suprisingly honest and gracious with Hagar. He told her to submit to Sarai. He told her that her son would be in conflict with everyone, even his brothers. Yet he blessed her with many descendants, one of the same blessings he promised to Abraham. We don’t know if Hagar’s encounter with God brought her to true faith in Him, but she clearly recognized his mercy toward her.

I see a wonderful model in this passage for our posture toward the nation of Islam and its followers. There is no doubt that this religion is following in Ishmael’s footsteps–there is great hatred, violence and animosity even among the factions within Islam. It may be that this religion desires to conquer the world. In that sense Satan is behind it. But we know, based on Scripture, that “greater is He that is in us that He that is in the world.” Ishmael’s descendants, the Arab nation, has prospered by God’s blessing, and the religion that started in that corner of the world has multiplied. Our posture toward muslims must be driven not by fear, but by a faithful conviction that God can use us to rescue many of these people made in God’s image from their slavery to a works righteousness for a god who has no concept of mercy. Yes, they worship the God of Abraham, but they have made him into an idol by denying the very attributes that allow us to know Him.

Please pray for a ministry called Arabic Bible Outreach Ministry that will be passing out Arabic bibles and other literature today in our parking lot immediately after the 1:00 p.m. prayer service in the Islamic Center in the basement of our building. Pray for many to come to Christ. Pray for opportunities to love and witness to our neighbors, and act on that prayer.




September 1, 2010

I shared the above verse with my Bible class this morning on our first day of class. Contrary to what many Christians seem to believe, knowledge (along with doctrine and theology) is a good gift from God. Paul acknowledges that we all possess it. However, knowledge apart from love makes one proud. Knowledge disconnected from an awareness of one’s own sin and others’ needs will result in condescension. Knowledge fired by and wrapped in love has the power to change the world. As Don Miller says in his book Blue Like Jazz, “a man will cross the English Channel to win his woman.” We pursue what we set our affections upon. Paul goes on to say that someone who thinks he knows something has not learned enough. Only when we recognize how much we don’t know have we begun to know. (This reminds me of the feeling of terror when I finished seminary and realized that someone was actually going to look to me as an expert!) Note Paul’s last statement: It is not the man who knows God who is loved by God; rather, it is the man who loves God who is known by God. Knowledge originates in Him, and when he knows us, he gives us whatever love we have for him and for others. With His love operating in our hearts, our knowledge can take wings and truly bring about change in our world.