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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.

Related Posts:
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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The Hajj & Unity in Islam

hajj

There are five pillars in Islam, things that each Muslim is required to do. One of the pillars is the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. A Muslim is to go on pilgrimage to Mecca once in his lifetime if he is able. Each year over 2 million Muslims from all over the world make the hajj.

Muslims often point to the unity of the community of Islam, the ummah. They understand that when one is Muslim he is part of a worldwide community of brothers and sisters. As a non Muslim I especially see this community in the hajj. It is an annual even that unites millions of Muslims (not only those who go, but all all their families at home).

Here is a video that explains the purpose of the hajj and what one does on hajj.

You can learn much more about the hajj at islam.com.

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There is a mystical bond between followers of Jesus Christ. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. This union is beautifully seen in communion (the Lord’s Supper). I love eating the Lord’s supper. It is a symbol of so many things: Christ’s death and resurrection, the unity of the people of God, the feast that Christ’s followers will one day enjoy in the new heavens and new earth.

Communion consists in eating the bread and drinking the cup. It was instituted by Jesus on the night before he went to the cross (read the story from the Injil). Today I was reminded of the way this practice unites followers of Christ into one body. Paul wrote, “16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

A few years ago my friend Ryan wrote some helpful clarifications regarding the Lord’s supper. Perhaps you will find them helpful too.


The Lord’s Supper is both backward and forward-looking

This ordinance is a remembrance and proclamation of Christ’s sacrifice for sins, and thus calls for a certain sobriety and gravity. It is an opportunity to reflect upon the cross and reorient our lives upon that all-important saving event (1 Cor. 11:23-25). But the ordinance also prefigures the marriage supper of the Lamb (11:26; Luke 22:14-18) and serves as a means of sanctification to help believers in Christ persevere in faith and love until His return. Christ did not stay on the cross or in the tomb. He is a living Savior who has promised to come back for us and dine with us in the consummated Kingdom (Matt. 8:11). Communion is a New Covenant celebration and a heavenly anticipation, and this ought to be reflected by an appropriate joy!

The Lord’s Supper is both vertically and horizontally oriented
The eating of the bread and drinking of the cup is clearly to be done in remembrance of Christ to the glory of God. Thus it is primarily God-ward in its orientation. Yet the ordinance is to be observed by a community of believers together, thus it has strong horizontal dimensions. Paul chastises the Corinthians for not considering one another in love as they gathered at table (1 Cor. 11:20-22). By implication, the believer’s self-examination should take into account both his God-ward and man-ward relationships. There is a discipline connected with the Lord’s Supper for those who eat and drink in an “unworthy manner” (1 Cor. 11:27). This doesn’t mean that a believer can somehow achieve to a standard that makes him morally “worthy” of communion with Christ. We come to the table, as to the cross, not to give, but to receive. However there is a disposition that is fitting for any who would partake of the Lord’s Supper which includes an attitude of weighty reflection upon the body and blood of Christ and a genuine love for and sense of unity with other brothers and sisters in His family.

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Perinatal Hospice

8-week-unborn-baby

It is a tragedy when parents have an ultrasound and find out that their baby has some type of problem, especially when that problem is incompatible with life. Unfortunately the tragedy is compounded as they are counseled to abort the baby (who will die anyway). Certainly grief can steal our peace, but this is especially true when mothers are encouraged to make decisions that can potentially lead to continued lack of peace as they deal with the guilt of killing their baby rather than letting her die naturally.

This is why I am so grateful for perinatal hospice. The whole purpose of hospice is to help people die in peace. This is important for our littlest people as well – unborn babies.

Matt Anderson describes the role of perinatal hospice in World Magazine:

Perinatal hospice honors life. The woman carrying the disabled child receives extensive counseling and birth preparation involving the combined efforts of MFM [maternal-fetal medicine] specialists, OB/GYN doctors, neonatologists, anesthesia services, chaplains, pastors, social workers, labor and delivery nurses, and neonatal nurses. She carries the pregnancy to its natural conclusion. She and her husband are allowed to grieve and prepare for the short time God may grant them with their child while their baby lives inside or outside the womb. Such a process obviates the grief caused by elective abortion, killing the child before it could be born.

HT: Between Two Worlds

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