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Archive for September, 2009

The World of 100

World of 100 Religion

If there were 100 people in the world this is how many would belong to different religions. This is a great way to summarize the world in an understandable way. You can also see things like skin color, how many live in fear, literacy, access to water and more. Check it out.

HT: Doug Wolter

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24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:22-27

Jesus Fulfills this Blessing

The Lord bless you

Jesus also wanted to bless, for in the gospel of Mark the children come to him and it says, “And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them” (Mark 10:16). Even more, it is in Jesus that God’s blessing comes. “So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14). Paul sums up the blessing that is in Christ in Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

And keep you

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and as our good shepherd he keeps us. “27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). No one will snatch us out of Christ’s hand because no can. He is too strong and he is keeping us safe.

The Lord make his face shine upon you

When Jesus is seen in his glory, his face shines. “1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17:1-2). “In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:16).

And it is in the face of Christ that we behold the glory of God. “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). It is by seeing this light that we are saved.

And be gracious to you

Jesus is full of grace as John says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). It is through the grace of Christ that we are saved, “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:11). And God’s grace only comes through Jesus, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4). “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:5-6). The very last verse of the Bible says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Revelation 22:21).

The Lord lift up his countenance upon you

God lifts up his face and looks favorably upon us because Jesus suffered, died and removed the wrath of God against us. “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:31-32)? Because of Jesus Christ, God now works all things together for the good of those who love him.

And give you peace

Hundreds of years before he was born, Jesus Christ was called the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6). He is the one who brings peace. He is the one who makes peace. He is the one in whom we have peace. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We can have peace because Jesus has overcome the world. He has defeated our enemies and is Lord over all. Therefore, we can have peace free from anxiety. But best of all, he has brought us peace with God by his death and resurrection. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1).

This whole blessing hinges on Jesus Christ because it is through Jesus Christ that we get any good thing. God created us in his image, but we have rebelled against him. We disobey him and refuse to submit to his authority. We dishonor him daily. God is holy and must deal with our sin. But rather than merely destroy us for our treachery, he sent his only son to take our punishment for us. Jesus, the eternal son of God, came from heaven and put on flesh. He became man. He lived a holy and righteous life and ultimately went to the cross in order to remove the wrath of God from us. He died in our place and then rose again so that all who believe in him would have eternal life. Any good that we have is owing to the grace of God in Jesus Christ because of the cross of Christ. It is Jesus who gives this blessing in Numbers meaning.

See Also:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 4

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Stories of the Prophets cover

Stories of the Prophets is a free book that describes some of the Islamic prophets (most of whom are also biblical prophets). I am eager to read it so that I can learn more about how Muslims understand the prophets we both hold in common. Islam Future has a list of the prophets who are in the book.

You will need software like Zipeg in order to open the .rar file.
Take heed of suggestive adds that may be on the download site.

HT: Circumpolar

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Christian Fasting

Last month I posted on fasting in Islam in light of the beginning of the month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for 30 days. In my experience I have found that some Muslims don’t know that Christians fast as well. And unfortunately I know that there are many Christians who don’t fast. But that isn’t the way it should be. Just as Muslims are commanded to fast, so also Christians are called to fast.

When Jesus Christ taught his disciples about fasting he said, “When you fast . . .” (Matthew 6:16), not “If you fast. . .” Just as the Lord expected his followers to give alms and to pray, he also expected that they would fast.

But the purpose of biblical fasting is different than the purpose of Islamic fasting. For Muslims fasting during Ramadan is how one earns merit from God and receives forgiveness of sins. Christians don’t fast in order to earn salvation or forgiveness of sins. God has already accomplished that through Jesus Christ and there is nothing we can add (“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” [Ephesians 2:8-9]). Instead we fast in order to display the depth of our desire for God. Fasting is like an exclamation point on our prayers, saying, “God we want you and need you more than any earthly thing.” It is a way of weaning ourselves from the pleasures of the world so that our pleasure will be solely fixed on God.

One significant difference is that there is much more freedom to do different kinds of fasts. For example, one could fast as Muslims fast in Ramadan (no food or drink from sunrise to sunset) or one could abstain from food for 24 hours or for multiple days or even weeks. Sometimes it is also helpful to our souls to fast from things other than food. For example it can be good to fast from electronic media (TV, internet, ipod, etc.) in order to refocus  our hearts on God. But however we fast the point is that Christians also are called to fast as one of the means we grow in our love for our Lord.

A great resource on fasting is John Piper’s book A Hunger for God. You can read it free online. For any Arabic readers, you can also order an Arabic copy.

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The Lord Bless You, Part 2

24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.   – Numbers 6:22-27

The second line of the blessing says, “The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you” (v. 25). I’m going to skip over the first part for now and come back to it. But the second part of this second line is a request that the Lord be gracious to us. Grace is God’s unmerited, free love that does good things for us we do not deserve. You cannot earn grace because once it is earned it is no longer grace. Grace is free and as sinful creatures we don’t deserve anything good from our Creator. Imagine a kingdom with rebels seeking to the overthrow the king. If in the midst of their war preparations and attack on his throne the king feeds and clothes them and promises them clemency if they renounce their rebellion, that is grace. They don’t deserve to be fed. They don’t deserve to be clothed and they certainly don’t deserve clemency. But the king gives it because he is gracious. In this blessing we are seeking God’s grace – that he would do good things for us we do not deserve.

The third line says, “The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (v. 26). Again I will skip the first part and come back it to it. The final request of the blessing is for the peace of God. This is peace with others – freedom from war and conflict. This is peace with ourselves – freedom from anxiety, worry and guilt. And it is peace with God – freedom from wrath and the privilege of being sons and daughters of the King.

Now let’s come back to the first part of verses 25 and 26. “The Lord make his face to shine upon you” and “The Lord lift up his countenance upon you.” I pair these together because the word for “countenance” and “face” is the same word. So it literally reads, “The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his face upon you and give you peace.” So what does it mean for God to make his face shine upon us? And what does it mean for him to lift up his face upon us?

God shining his face upon us is connected to salvation. “Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love” (Psalm 31:16). “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:3, also v. 7, 19). God’s shining face brings salvation because it means that we see the glory of God: the goodness of God, the grace of God, the mercy of God and the love of God.

Verse 26 isn’t very different than verse 25. Instead of making his face shine, it requests God to lift up his face upon us. They almost mean the same thing and there is much overlap. But in this case we are not merely asking to see the glory of God’s face, which will save us, we are asking that his face be turned toward us in such a way that we would feel his pleasure. This is more than God saving us; it is God taking pleasure in us, enjoying us.

We can see this sense of God being pleased with us when we see that for God to hide his face means that he is angry. “Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods” (Deut 31:17-18). When God lifts up the light of his countenance, that is, his face, upon us it shows that he is not angry with us, but is pleased. He is looking on us for our good.

God wants to bless you. He wants to keep you. He wants to make his face to shine upon you. He wants to be gracious to you. He wants to lift up his countenance upon you. And he wants to give you peace. Look at verse 27, “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” By blessing the Israelites, the priests were putting the name of the Lord upon the people of Israel.

The name of God symbolizes the whole of who God is. And by putting his name upon the people, he is declaring that these people belong to him. They are his. We see the culmination of this in Revelation 22:1-5.

1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

See Also:
Part 1
Part 3
Part 4

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Eid Mubarak

eid

Today is Eid Al Fitr, the holiday at the end of Ramadan. Muslims all over the world are celebrating the completion of the month of fasting by visiting with families and giving gifts of food to the poor.

See also Mr. Moo’s post, “Is Eid the Muslim Christmas?” He answers yes and no.

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The Lord Bless You, Part 1

In one of my earliest posts I mentioned that I love the Islamic greeting because it speaks a blessing on others (“Peace be upon you”, As-Salaamu ‘Alaykoum [السلام عليكم]). Each night when I put my kids to bed I give them a blessing. Blessings should be part of our lives.

In 2007 and 2008 I had the privilege and honor of serving as the Interim Pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. At the end of each service I delivered the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6:24-26, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” These weren’t just words. They were blessings spoken over God’s people that were (I believe) empowered by God so that his blessing really did fall on them. For my last sermon to this precious church I preached through this great blessing. I thought I would divide the sermon up into a few posts and share it with you. I hope it will encourage you to speak blessings into other people’s lives.

The Lord Bless You

22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, 24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.  27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” – Numbers 6:22-27

The first thing we should see regarding this blessing is that it was God who initiated it. “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying . . .” (v. 22). Moses didn’t come to God and say, “Lord, I think it would be a good idea to bless the people, what do you think?” He didn’t say, “Lord, will you bless the people?” The idea to give a blessing to the people comes from God. This is very significant because it means that God wants to bless his people. He doesn’t bless begrudgingly; he blesses willingly and gladly. “When Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go, as at other times, to look for omens, but set his face toward the wilderness” (Num 24:1).

Before we examine the blessing we need to see who was to give this blessing. Aaron and his sons are the ones who give the blessing to the people. Blessing the people was a function of the priests, for Aaron and his sons were the priests. Aaron was the high priest and his sons were also priests who assisted him. We will come back to this later, but for now we note that the priests gave the blessing.

The actual blessing God wanted the priests to speak over the people begins in verse 24:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

There are three lines. What do you notice about each line? The Lord is explicitly stated as the subject of each line. The point is that God and God alone, Yahweh, the Creator of the Earth is the one who can do these things. There is no blessing apart from God. You will not be kept apart from the Lord. There is no grace and no peace apart from God and there is no other face that we want to shine on us.

The blessing is a prayer. The priests are asking the Lord to bless, keep, make his face shine, be gracious, lift up his countenance and give peace. But the blessing is spoken to the people. When we pray we don’t have to close our eyes, though we often do. But when I give the blessing at the end of the service I intentionally look at you, in your eyes, because I am speaking to you. I am speaking the blessing to you, not to God. But at the same time it is a form of prayer because my words of blessing to you are implicit requests to God to make them true.

The first line says, “The Lord bless you and keep you.” God blesses us by doing good to us. Blessing is connected to fruitfulness. In the covenant with Israel God promised that if they obeyed him and remained faithful he would bless them with a good land, abundant crops, safety, good livestock and large families. “The Lord bless you” means “the Lord do good to you.”

“And keep you.” This is so crucial. We need God to keep us. We need God to hold us so tight that no one can snatch us out of his hand. We need God to faithfully keep us or we will be lost. This is why Jesus prays, “Holy father, keep them in your name” (John 17:11). God keeps us alive. He keeps us believing. He keeps us trusting. He keeps us obeying. He keeps us in his name so that we do not fall away.

See Also:
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

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