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Archive for August, 2012

A Ramadan Poem

Ramadan recently ended. Most non-Muslims would assume that Muslims would dread Ramadan since they must fast from sunrise to sunset, abstaining from all food and drink. I know that some Muslims do dread it. However, I also have met many who truly love this month. This poem by Musa Burki gives a picture of the beauty of Ramadan for our Muslim friends.

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Ramadan: A Poem

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A time for our hearts to become unsealed

Reflecting on the divine words revealed

The month which we hope to never end

Unable to count the infinite blessings it sends

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Asked by our Lord to give up our worldly pleasures

So that we may receive His divine treasures

It’s a time that comes but once a year

Yet the moments which we hold most dear

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The nights spent in prayer and reflection

Prepares the soul for redemption

Praying to our Creator for mercy and wisdom

Pleading to be admitted into His kingdom

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We welcome you, O Ramadan, with joy as our guest

Having to subdue our egos as a test

You mend our hearts and give us tranquility

As we engage in battling our iniquity

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Solidifying the bonds of kith and kin

Washing away the stain of sin

Fasting not only of body but of speech

It is Your benevolence which we beseech

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O Ramadan, you have blessed us with your presence

Teaching us to grow from our spiritual adolescence

Continue to be the month which will always bless

Helping us to alleviate our fears and distress

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Jesus Christ was an amazing healer and a great teacher. He was also a powerful cleanser in ways that would be impossible for an ordinary man. Lepers were required to live outside the camp and shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” so that no one would touch them and become unclean themselves. People avoided them, but not Jesus.

When lepers came for healing, he healed them—not with medicine or even a word, but by his touch. He did the very thing that would have made him unclean, yet the opposite happened. Rather than being made unclean by the leper, he made the leper clean. Under the law, when the priest examining the leper saw that the leprous disease was gone the man was still unclean. Healing from the disease was not enough to make the man clean. He also needed to sacrifice a bird and have its blood sprinkled on him. Even after that he was still not fully restored. He could go into the camp, but could not live inside his tent for seven days. Then he would shave all the hair off his head, wash his clothes and bathe. Now on the eight day he would bring a sacrifice (a burnt offering and a grain offering) for the Lord to the tent of meeting. The priest would make atonement for him. Only after all of this was he declared clean and thus restored to the community (see Leviticus 14:1-20).

Notice the difference when Jesus healed a man with leprosy. “And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, ‘If you will, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean” (Mark 1:40-42). No elaborate ritual. No sacrifice. No washing. No waiting a week. The man was both healed and cleansed immediately.

Later in Mark 5 we see again Jesus’ purity, authority and cleansing power over the unclean. First he confronted an unclean spirit in an unclean land (Gentile land). He showed his power by commanding the unclean spirit to come out of the man and then highlighted his quest to destroy what is unclean by permitting the unclean spirits to enter unclean pigs who destroyed themselves by throwing themselves over the cliff (Gospel according to Mark 5:1-20). Next he was touched by an unclean woman who had had a flow of blood for 12 years, which meant she had been perpetually unclean for 12 years. Again, rather than becoming unclean himself he healed her and made her clean (Mark 5:25-34). He then overcame the ultimate source of uncleanness and defilement: death. Jairus, who had asked him to come and heal his daughter, was told that his daughter was dead. Undaunted, Jesus went to his house, took her by the hand (which would have made one unclean, but not Jesus) and raised her from the dead (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43).

Throughout his ministry we see Jesus reversing the effects of sin and defilement. We see him forgiving sin, healing the sick, raising the dead, all of which can be seen as cleansing the defiled. Cleanness was not contagious, but now we find one whose cleanness was contagious, one who could make the unclean clean with a mere touch.

Other posts in this series

Cleansing from Defilement, Part 1: Introduction
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 2: The Danger of Defilement
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 3: Distinguishing between the Clean and Unclean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 4: What Makes One Unclean?
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 5: Uncleanness is Contagious and Defiles the Camp
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 6: Defilement and Purity in the New Testament
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7a: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7b: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Baptism
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7c: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Death and Resurrection
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 8: The Incarnation Was Necessary for Our Cleansing

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Eboo Patel has a thought provoking piece about how Evangelicals could grow to love Muslims. He compares current American evangelical attitudes towards Muslims with the attitudes evangelicals had towards Catholics more than 50 years ago before JFK was elected president. These attitudes are remarkably similar. He notes:

It is easy to draw a straight line between the evangelical anti-Catholic prejudice of previous generations and the Islamophobia of today, essentially saying that “evangelicals have to hate someone.”

What a tragedy that those who believe in the One who so loved the world that he gave his only Son (Gospel according to John 3:16) and follow the One who, in love, laid down his life for the sake of  others (John 10:11) would be seen by some as needing someone to hate. I can understand why my evangelical friends would protest this perception. I can also see why my Muslim (and non-Muslim) friends would feel this way.

Fortunately, Patel doesn’t simply leave it at that. He believes and hopes for better things. The change in many evangelicals regarding Catholics happened when they got to know Catholics. Perhaps this same change can happen as evangelicals get to know Muslims. I hope so. I hope that evangelicals won’t be thought of as the people who hate Muslims (or any other group), but as the group who embody Jesus’ love for Muslims.

Patel closes his article with this:

Maybe in 50 years, there will be no surprise when the loudest cheerleaders for Muslim presidential candidates and Supreme Court justices are evangelical Christians.

You’ll have to read the whole thing to see how he got there.

Related Post:
Love Your Neighbor

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It is into an unclean and defiled world that the Messiah came. Since defilement and uncleanness are spoken of so little in the church today, one might conclude that the issue of defilement is a non-issue in the New Testament. That is not the case. The problem of our defilement is still just as significant an issue in the New Testament as it was in the Old Testament, as important in the Injil as it was in the Tawrat. Jews in the first century had not ceased obeying the purity laws and thus the Old Testament teaching on purity and defilement was very much in the mind of the those listening to the message of the Messiah, especially since these issues were everyday issues.

Ironically, when the religious leaders were seeking to put Jesus to death they were unwilling to enter Pilates’s house in order to not be defiled and be unable to eat the Passover (John 18:28). Being unclean still makes one unfit to be in the presence of God, that is, one whose uncleanness remains will not see God. This is made abundantly clear in Revelation 21. The great hope of mankind is that God will dwell with his people in the new Jerusalem, but this great hope is only for those who are clean. “Nothing unclean will ever enter [paradise], nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).

Washing is necessary if one wants a share in Christ, that is, an inheritance in the salvation he provides. When Jesus was about to wash Peter’s feet, Peter objected, “You shall never wash my feet.” Peter rightly saw that Jesus was too great to do menial and dirty tasks, but he failed to see that being washed by Jesus was his only hope to be made fit to be in God’s presence. Jesus replied to him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Peter was then eager to have his whole body washed, but Jesus replied, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean” (John 13:8, 10).

Being clean still matters.

Other posts in this series

Cleansing from Defilement, Part 1: Introduction
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 2: The Danger of Defilement
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 3: Distinguishing between the Clean and Unclean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 4: What Makes One Unclean?
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 5: Uncleanness is Contagious and Defiles the Camp
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 6: Defilement and Purity in the New Testament
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7a: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7b: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Baptism
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7c: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Death and Resurrection
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 8: The Incarnation Was Necessary for Our Cleansing

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Every time you look at the news, you can’t help but be hit by at least one Islamophobic story. Well, at least that is the way I felt for a long time.

This is from Muhammad Wajid Akhter’s article “4 Ways that London 2012 Made Muslims Feel Welcome” at Muslim Matters. I want to hear people when they feel that their community has been wrongly spoken of. And I want to celebrate with them when they feel respected by others.

These are the 4 ways he felt welcomed.

4. Visibly Muslim Volunteers

3. Olympic village canteen open all night for fasting athletes

2. Allowing dawah [inviting others to Islam] ]in/ around the Olympic park

1. Celebrating Muslim Olympians

Read the whole thing.

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Coldplay and God

I had the pleasure of seeing Coldplay in St Paul last Saturday. It was a great show. Not only did Coldplay do a phenomenal job, but God really met me in this concert and helped me worship him. Here are a few things God was teaching me at the concert.

1. Excellence. Watching and listening to Coldplay inspired me to excellence (the Olympics also did this for me). If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. I was inspired to work harder and pursue greater excellence in what I do.

2. Gratitude. God gave me ears to hear great music. He gave me eyes to watch a spectacular show. He gave us creativity to create great music and stunning light shows. I felt really grateful for how God had made us to enjoy things with our senses.

3. Community. I enjoyed the show much more because I was part of a large community of people. It would have been a very different experience if I had listened to all the same songs by myself in my home. The music would still have been great, but the experience would have been much less enjoyable. Even if I had been able to watch the whole concert in the stadium, if I was alone it wouldn’t have been as good. The joy of those around me increased my enjoyment.

4. Heaven. God is better than Coldplay. It was a great concert, but heaven will be better. Much better. I really enjoyed this show and I kept thinking about how much greater it will be we are all centered around the throne of God rather than a stage of musicians.

5. Social media. All over the stadium people were recording videos and snapping pictures. This was good. But some of these people were also posting to Facebook and Twitter and instant messaging others. I think that in our society of social media we can become so eager to share our experiences with others that we actually don’t truly enjoy and enter into the experience at hand. It is as if we are outside of ourselves describing the experience to another rather than simply enjoying the experience.

6. Humility. I don’t know if the members of Coldplay are humble are not, but during the concert they seemed genuinely grateful for their fans. It was as if they knew they were dependent on the fans. Many celebrities have become so consumed with themselves they don’t recognize that pretending to be someone else (actors), singing a song, shooting a basket, or kicking a goal really aren’t that big a deal. Many people we’ve never heard of are doing much more important and lasting things. Coldplay, though, seemed genuinely humble. This encouraged me to be humble as well.

Here is a Coldplay video that my kids really liked:

Here is a video my friend took during the concert:

 

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The first problem with uncleanness is that it made someone unfit to be in the presence of a holy God. The second problem is that it defiled others in the camp so that they would be unfit to be in the presence of a holy God. The final problem is that it defiled the camp itself and thus ran the risk of the camp being abandoned by God’s presence and then destroyed.

The people were commanded to remove uncleanness from the camp. If there was uncleanness in a house, the bricks with the uncleanness were taken out of the house and out of the camp. If the uncleanness persisted after a week of quarantine, the entire house was destroyed and discarded outside of the camp (Leviticus 14:33-53).

Leprous people and those who had touched dead bodies were forced to be outside of the camp because their very presence defiled the camp. Their uncleanness was contagious. “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Command the people of Israel that they put out of the camp everyone who is leprous or has a discharge and everyone who is unclean through contact with the dead. You shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell.’ And the people of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the Lord said to Moses, so the people of Israel did” (Numbers 5:1-4).

Keeping the camp clean and the tabernacle holy by properly distinguishing between the clean and unclean was of paramount importance. After the many explanations on how to distinguish the clean from the unclean in Leviticus 11-15, God said to Moses and Aaron, “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst” (Leviticus 15:31). This was a real danger. Uncleanness was normal and unavoidable (as seen before), but if not properly addressed normal uncleanness could lead to death.

There was a remedy for uncleanness, but one had to avail himself of this remedy. The Lord spoke to Moses concerning the one who failed to wash after being unclean, “Whoever touches a dead person, the body of anyone who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord, and that person shall be cut of from Israel; because the water for impurity was not thrown on him, he shall be unclean. His uncleanness is still on him” (Numbers 19:13). It was not being unclean that was dangerous, it was either approaching the sacred while unclean or failing to do anything about one’s uncleanness that was dangerous.1 In this case the unclean person defiled the tabernacle of the Lord and the result was being cut off from Israel. It was, in essence, a death sentence, for in being cut off from Israel he was being cut off from the source of life and purity. If one failed to wash after becoming unclean, his iniquity remained, “But if he does not wash [his clothes] or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity” (Leviticus 17:16).

If the whole camp was defiled and thus the whole land, the entire nation could be cut off. This is what had happened to the nations who had lived in Canaan before Israel. They had made themselves unclean through horrible sins and thereby “the land became unclean” (Leviticus 18:25). This is why God punished them and “the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:25). If Israel was not careful to follow God and keep his commandments they too would defile the land and be vomited out by the land (Leviticus 18:28).

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1 “These pollutions are contagious, but they are not dangerous . . . the only misfortune associated with the condition is isolation from the people and alienation from all things holy. The condition of impurity becomes actively dangerous to the individual only when it comes into contact with the sacred” (Tikva Frymer-Kensky, “Pollution, Purification, and Purgation in Biblical Israel” in The Word of the Lord Shall Go Forth: Essays in Honor of David Noel Freedman. Edited by C. L. Meyers and M. O’Connor (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1983], 403).

Other posts in this series

Cleansing from Defilement, Part 1: Introduction
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 2: The Danger of Defilement
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 3: Distinguishing between the Clean and Unclean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 4: What Makes One Unclean?
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 5: Uncleanness is Contagious and Defiles the Camp
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 6: Defilement and Purity in the New Testament
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7a: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7b: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Baptism
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7c: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Death and Resurrection
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 8: The Incarnation Was Necessary for Our Cleansing

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