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Archive for August, 2009

I completed the series on Honor and Shame in the Psalms a few weeks ago. The posts were slightly edited sections of a larger paper I had written, which I am now posting as a whole. Please use it and share it freely with anyone you think might be interested.

Honor and Shame in the Psalter

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Ramadan Pictures

These are great pictures of Muslims observing Ramadan all over the world. You see Muslims looking for the moon in Malaysia, praying in Indonesia, reading the Qur’an in Kenya, listening to a sermon in Beijing, grocery shopping for iftar (the meal after sunset when they break the fast) in Bangladesh, sleeping in a mosque in Libya, selling dates in Jordan and more.

men praying

man praying

HT: Matthew M. & Jared T.

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Black and White Together

This is way the church should be. Jesus Christ tore down the racial dividing walls when he died on the cross for all peoples. Many churches don’t get this. I’m glad St. Paul Baptist Church @ Shively Heights does. Some will make much of the fact that the merger of a predominantly black church with a predominantly white church in Louisville, KY was partially motivated by economics (both churches could no longer sustain themselves on their own), but I think more significant is the friendship that existed between the pastors and the clear vision they have for how Jesus Christ is Lord over all people regardless of race.

Followers of Christ still have a ways to go in truly portraying the peace that Jesus Christ gives between peoples of all races, but I thank God for each step towards greater holiness.

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The Express: The Ernie Davis Story

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Ramadan began Saturday. I don’t ever remember President Bush giving Ramadan greetings to Muslims as they begin this month of fasting, but a quick Google search shows that he did. I did, however, see President Obama’s Ramadan greetings this year and I thought it would be good to post it here for you to hear.

I’m glad for these kinds of greetings. Obviously, we all know there are many differences among Muslims and Christians. But even with the many religious differences there are many things that unite us. I heartily encourage talking through differences (and am happy to do so), but also want each of us to embrace our commonalities, particularly when we can pursue common goals that do good to others.

President Obama is a politician, not a religious leader. This serves to show that it isn’t only religious leaders who can encourage understanding among Muslims and Christians. And I can tell you from my experience that you also don’t have to be the President of the United States.We can each grow in our understanding of one another and as much as it depends on us, we can live in peace with others (see Romans 12:18).

Watch the President’s greetings and let me know what you think.

(I especially had to post this after I heard his closing line, “May God’s peace be upon you.”)

HT: My Islamic Perspective

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Ramadan Mubarak

Saturday marks the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. Muslims all over the world will fast from food, drink, cigarettes and sex from sunrise to sunset for 30 days.

From Wikipedia:

Fasting is meant to teach the Muslim patience, modesty and spirituality. Ramaḍān is a time to fast for the sake of Allah, and to offer more prayer than usual. Muslims also believed through good actions, they get rewarded seventy times as much as they normally can achieve. During Ramaḍān, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.

Ramadan is a special month in which families and friends gather each night to break the fast together. I remember our first Ramadan in the Middle East surprised us by how festive it was. I also remember it was a lonely time. We thought the most difficult time to be living overseas would be Thanksgiving and Christmas because we would miss our families so much. We certainly did miss them then, but found that we actually missed them more during Ramadan! Seeing how busy all of our friends were with their families was a stark reminder that we were so far away from ours.

That is why it was so special when we were invited to break the fast with friends and their families. I imagine that this is also true for Muslims living outside of their countries during holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter (and of course during Ramadan). A couple years ago we had one of our most enjoyable Thanksgiving dinners with family in Iowa. We had invited our friend from Jordan to come to Iowa with us. It was a pleasure sharing this holiday with him. While I’m sure he would have loved to have spent a couple days with his family, I know that he was glad to spend a couple days with our family.

So I’d like to challenge each of us. Muslim friends, would you consider inviting non Muslims to break the fast with you some night during Ramadan? This is a great way to help others grow in their understanding of who you are and why you fast. And Christian friends, would you be willing to invite a Muslim neighbor, classmate, coworker, friend to share Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter dinner* with you and your family? This is a great way to help them grow in their understanding of why these are important days to you.

*When hosting Muslims it is essential that we not serve pork or alcohol since both are forbidden in Islam.

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If you’ve read my about page you know that I enjoy U.S. presidential history. Currently I am reading An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 by Robert Dallek. Most of you probably know that the Cuban missile crisis in October, 1962 was the closest the US and the USSR ever came to actually engaging in a nuclear war. And it was really close.

The lack of truth was in large part to blame for this crisis becoming as serious as it was. Chairman Khrushchev repeatedly insisted to President Kennedy that the weapons they were bringing to Cuba were solely for defensive purposes. Kennedy had seen the aerial photos and knew that this was a bold faced lie. At one point Andrey Gromyko, the Soviet foreign minister, met with President Kennedy in the Oval Office and also insisted that they were only defensive, all the while the photos (which Moscow didn’t know Kennedy had) were sitting in the president’s desk drawer. This made it more difficult for Kennedy to trust Khrushchev when he committed to dismantling the missile sites inside Cuba.

As I read this I was struck by how necessary truth is for peace. There can be no real peace that is built on lies. Khrushchev’s lies made it impossible for Kennedy to trust him at his word. This is a big deal when you are trying to avoid a war that would catastrophically destroy the world.

But it isn’t just in international crisis where truth is so important. It is essential in all relationships. What happens when a son repeatedly lies to his parents? What happens when a wife can no longer trust her husband? What kind of peace will they have in their relationship? Trust is essential for peace. Truth is essential for trust. If we want to be effective peacemakers we must first be truth tellers.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate peacemaker, for God calls him the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6). It is no wonder, then, that he says this about himself in the Injil, “I am the truth” (John 14:6).

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030408-N-5362A-002.jpgMinneapolis 2

I was encouraged to read that Minneapolis, MN and Najaf, Iraq have become sister cities. This partnership includes cultural and educational exchange as well as the effort to build tangible connections between the two cities.

Luke Wilcox writes on the Engage Minnesota blog what I think is so significant about this:

People on both “sides” who have doubts about the other will be exposed to exchange programs and events, in the media if not in person. While media coverage can play a large role in building support FOR war and vilifying the “enemy,” it can also be effective in countering such attitudes. Those in the Twin Cities who are willing and open to listening and participating in exchanges will experience Iraqi culture first-hand, and some will develop long-lasting friendships. Iraqis in the Najaf area will also be exposed to aspects of American culture and community not often seen from an occupying military. . . Coming as peacemakers and visitors, these professors, former city council members, business professionals, NGO directors and members of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT) are like us, curious, smart and interested in making friends.

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