Monday, March 31, 2008

Monday is for Missions: China

With over 1 billion people, China is home to roughly 1/6th of the world's population. China has been a breeding ground for Marxist philosophy and the communistic regime has attempted to filter out all forms of religion. However, as history has proved, the Christian church has experienced phenomenal growth under such oppression although true statistics can not be validated. Nonetheless, the true church is healthy (arguably more healthy than the western church) and is growing exponentially.

Such growth under opposition is impressive and encouraging, however, we should be careful not to lose sight of the still great need for evangelization. The majority of Chinese peoples have still never been exposed to the saving grace made available through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most are either atheistic (as the government would prefer) and others still have strong ties to Buddhism, Daoism (or Taoism), or other Chinese ethnic religions. Since the staunch Buddhist denies the existence of evil altogether, the concept of an indwelling sin nature is even more foreign to them. Daoism is where the familiar Yin-Yang symbol finds its origins and the philosophy expressed is that of an intermingling of good and evil to the extent that there is no clear distinction. Although fun to draw, this philosophy has grave implications for the thinking Christian.

Our friends at Operation World have been focusing on China since March 24 and will continue to do so until April 5. Follow this link to Operation World for an excellent overview of the country, its geography, religion, and politics. This will also be helpful with tools on how to pray for China.

It is interesting that I probably have a personal association with more missionaries to this area of the world than to any other. I'm not sure why I find this interesting given the high density of the world's population, but it seems interesting nonetheless.

Read Complete Article...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Monday is for Missions: Basic Philosophy of Islam

Islam was founded by Muhammad in the year 610 after he received his first revelation from the angel Gabriel in a cave in Mount Hira.(1) This revelation was then memorized and dictated to others (since Muhammad could neither read nor write) and this collection of writing, or recitation, came to be known as the Qu’ran. This simple beginning has now become one of the largest religions in the world and is likely the fastest growing religion at the present time.

The basic philosophy of Islam may be divided into two categories: beliefs and obligations. The major beliefs are what Christians would refer to as “non-negotiable” in manners of doctrine. Muslims believe in “God”, whom they refer to as Allah, however, he is not to be confused with the Trinitarian God of Christian Scripture. Rather, it is said that Allah “has no son nor partner, and that none has the right to be worshipped but Him alone.”(2) Allah is also all-powerful and all-knowing, having planned creation’s events since the beginning of time. “He knows what has happened, what will happen, and how it will happen. No affair occurs in the whole world except by His will. Whatever He wills is, and whatever He does not will is not and will never be.”(3)

The next major belief is the Muslim’s belief in angels. Since the angel Gabriel is said to have given the message of the Qu’ran to Muhammad, it is necessarily imperative that a Muslim testifies to the existence of angels.

The third major belief is the belief in God’s revealed books. These books include the Qu’ran, the Jewish Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospels. There are some groups of Muslims (Sunni Muslims in particular) who believe also in the authority of the Sunna which “includes the Hadith in which the sayings and conduct of Muhammad and his companions are recorded.”(4) Shi’ites, on the other hand, do not accept the Sunna as authoritative and prefer to view the Imam (a pope-like figure) as the final authority. Shi’ites still await the return of the twelfth Imam. Most Muslims agree, however, that the only book that remains in an uncorrupted state is the Qu’ran.

Another major belief for Muslims is to believe in the prophets who were messengers of God. “According to the Qu’ran, God has sent a prophet to every nation to preach the message of there being only one God. In all, 124,000 prophets have been sent…”(5) Many of these prophets are in the Christian tradition such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. It is uniformly believed, however, that “God’s final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.”(6)

The final two beliefs for a Muslim are the belief in the Day of Judgment and the belief in Al-Qadar. On the Day of Judgment, “all people will be resurrected for God’s judgment according to the beliefs and deeds.”(7) Al-Qadar is the Muslim’s concept of predestination and it is required for the Muslim to submit to the will of Allah lest he not be considered faithful.

The next subcategory in the philosophy of Islam is the obligations which are also known as the Five Pillars of Islam. These are fairly straightforward and uniform throughout all of Islam. Some sects may add other obligations to this list, but none will come short of it. The first pillar is the “testimony of faith.” This is paramount to being a Muslim for it is here that the Muslim proclaims, “La ilaha illa Allahm Muhammadur rasoolu Allah” meaning “There is no true god [deity] but God [Allah], and Muhammad is the Messenger [Prophet] of God.”(8) The next obligation is to pray five times per day while facing Makkah (or Mecca). These prayers are performed at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night. I find it interesting that the Muslim, I.A. Ibrahim declares that, “in prayer, a person feels inner happiness, peace, and comfort, and that God is pleased with him or her.”(9)

Muslims are also required to give alms to the poor in the amount of 2.5% (or 1/40) of their income. During Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim’s lunar calendar, all Muslims are required to fast during the daylight hours “as a method of spiritual self-purification.”(10) The final obligation for the Muslim who is physically and financially able is the make the pilgrimage to Makkah (or Mecca), which is known as the birthplace of Muhammad. In Mecca, there is a large black box in the center of the mosque which is known as the “Kaaba,” which is the “place of worship which God commanded the Prophets Abraham and his son, Ishmael, to build.”(11)

These are the six major beliefs and the five obligations which make up the basic philosophy of Islam. In short, the individual is never quite assured of his or her salvation for he is always in fear of the scales. The Muslim believes has two angels appointed to him to record his good deeds and his bad deeds. If the good deeds outweigh the bad then Allah is pleased and he will be able to enter into paradise. However, if the bad deeds outweigh the good, then he will be cast into an eternal hellfire separated from all that is good. This works-based system of salvation has spread rapidly throughout the world seemingly because of its outward appearance to “do good to others.”

The call for evangelism among Muslims has never been greater. Many parts of the world are enslaved to the system and diametrically opposed to the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which brings liberation from sin. The Muslim knows no such liberation as he lives in a constant fear of the scales. Pray that God may encourage the workers of his kingdom who work among Muslims in attempting to reach them with the gospel. Pray that he would be pleased to cause a burning hunger for truth within many who give blind allegiance to a god that they do not know and can not know personally.

Further resources: - Islam from an Islamic Persepctive - Islam from an Islamic Persepctive
Go West Africa - an IMB website

(1) Dean C. Halverson, The Compact Guide to World Religions, ed Dean C. Halverson (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1996), p 104.
(2) I.A. Ibrahim, A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, Second Edition, (Houston, TX: Darussalam, 1997), p 45.
(3) Ibid. p 46
(4)Dean C. Halverson, The Compact Guide to World Religions, p 105
(5) Ibid, p 106.
(6) I.A. Ibrahim, A Brief Illustrated Guide, p 48.
(7) Ibid, p 48.
(8) Ibid, p 65.
(9) Ibid, p 66.
(10) Ibid, p 67.
(11) Ibid, p 67

Read Complete Article...

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Another dead guys' prayer that breathes so much life for me...

"O Changeless God,

Under the conviction of thy Spirit I learn that the more I do, the worse I am,
The more I know, the less I know,
The more holiness I have, the more sinful I am,
The more I love, the more there is to love.
O wretched man that I am!

O Lord,
I have a wild heart, and cannot stand before thee;
I am like a bird before a man.
How little I love they truth and ways!

I neglect prayer,
By thinking I have prayed enough and earnestly,
By knowing thou hast saved my soul.

Of all hypocrites, grant that I may not an evangelical hypocrite, who sins mores safely because grace abounds,
Who tells his lusts that Christ’s blood cleanseth them
Who for reasons that God cannot cast him into hell, for he is saved,
Who loves evangelical preaching, churches, Christians, but lives unholily.

My mind is a bucket without a bottom,
With no spiritual understanding,
No desire for the Lord’s Day,
Ever learning but never reaching the truth,
Always at the gospel-well but never holding water.

My conscience is without conviction or contrition, with nothing to repent of.
My will is without power of decision or resolution.
My heart is without affection, and full of leaks.
My memory has no retention, so I forget easily the lessons learned, and thy truths seep away.

Give me a broken heart that yet carries home the water of grace."

Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, ed Arthur Bennett, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2003), p 128-129

Read Complete Article...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Will Pray for Food?

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isa 55:1)

It would appear as though a Catholic church in Croatia has taken these words of Isaiah and applied them not to Christ, but to their café. The church is attempting to reach the youth culture that has populated the area and the method they have employed is not uncommon to many western protestant churches. They chose to open a café that serves cappuccino, fruit juices, pastries, and other snacks hoping to draw more students back to the area following the local services. The best news…it’s all free…well, sort of.

The church has drafted a menu that does not require an actual exchange of dollar amounts (or whatever the applicable Croatian denomination may be), but all goods are based on the offerings of specific prayers. A standard cup of java will run you three "Our Fathers", but a Coca-Cola will require five "Hail Marys" plus an additional “Glory Be", “while a cappuccino ranks mid-way at four renditions of the Lord's Prayer.”

Now, although I would not agree entirely with the substance of the prayers, I can not fault this church’s ingenuity for encouraging its youth to memorize. Would it be better suited if the memory aid was based upon infallible Scripture such as the Isaiah passage mentioned above or any others? Of course. And judging from the menu prices it would appear as though Scripture is incorporated…you just have to order the cappuccino.

Read the whole thing

Read Complete Article...