Quick! Steal This Alliteration

In the wise and winsome way of a church statesmen with decades of research and relationship behind him, Bert de Ruiter pulls back the curtain on seven trends he sees shaping the Islam of Europe (He says “Islams!”)

If you are European, perhaps you see dynamics similar to those Herr de Ruiter describes. If you are American or from somewhere else, you may wonder if similar dynamics are emerging in your country. (Even if your country is Muslim majority!)

I was directed to Bert’s insightful essay by a pleasingly long and balanced article recently published by Christianity Today. In it, Jayson Caspar, writer, pray-er and my new favorite author explores how Europe is reacting to its growing numbers of Muslims and whether or not the U.S. should try a different approach.

Being a pragmatist at heart, I Ioved Caspar’s recounting of de Ruiter’s closing advice for European Christians, and presumably the rest of us, in light of the growth and changes afoot with Islam.

Research: Matthew 10.11 speaks of finding the worthy person in a village you come to. Likewise, Christians must learn the real situation of actual Muslims, not media-driven images.

Reflect: Psalm 139.23,24 invites God to search our hearts. Anti-Muslim prejudice is often unconsciously ingrained, and with humility Christians can repent and develop attitudes of compassion.

Relate: In 1 Thessalonians 2.8 Paul describes how he shared his life with those he was trying to reach. Christians must develop relationships with Muslims, in hope of also sharing the gospel.

Relax: In Psalm 46.10 the Lord reminds believers to “be still, and know that I am God.” Whatever changes happen in Europe [and elsewhere] are according to God’s sovereignty, and he will be exalted among the nations.

That’s the alliteration I’m inviting you to steal (Please credit Caspar and de Ruiter.) for your Facebook status, your Twitter feed, your church bulletin or bulletin board or as the ready made outline for your next sermon. I just might do that!

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“My Team Hired a Woman?! And She Wears a Hijab?! We’re Doomed!”

The Philadelphia Eagles football team made headlines this past week by promoting Ameena Soliman to Pro Scout. The move stirred up controversy among Eagles’ fans and beyond. I could see it if they made her quarterback, but scout?

Was it a smart move? Well, on the one hand, the Eagles won fewer games than almost every other team last year. On the other, Soliman’s credentials are legit. I suspect she’s forgotten more about football than any random dozen fans will ever know.

While some detractors questioned her ability to perform her job, clearly some of the issue is her gender and maybe even more so her religion.

Can women really work in football? Many do successfully.

But Muslim women? Of course, most wouldn’t think of her as “Muslim” so much if it weren’t for the darn hijab! You might wonder about her background, but the head covering seals the deal.

But why care about her religion? I suppose some might wonder if the Eagles’ management is placing a misguided desire for diversity above the sacrosanct pursuit of wins. Maybe she got the job, not based solely on merit, but also because she’s a Muslim?

I wonder if there’s also some of this: “I’m ok with Muslims over there, but this is my team, my tribe. It’s always been a reliable place of big, familiar, black and white men. I’m not ok with Muslim women diluting it. They’re getting too close. Heck, they’re getting into everything.”

It looks a little silly when you write it down.

But what about me? What if my kids’ new school bus driver was a bearded, keffiyeh-wearing Muslim dude? Or one of their teachers a hijabi with a heavy accent? I love Muslims, but I’ve still got issues.

Jesus, renew our minds. Transform us to the core of our souls.

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Storms A-brewing! (What happens with hot and cold climate cultures mix?)

The large, meaty hand extended to me from a mountain of a man. “Khalid,” he boomed. “My name is Khalid. You need anything, ANYTHING, you let me know.” He said the second “anything” in such a way it seemed likely to include finding suitable matches for my daughters and getting rid of a body!

We were unloading the moving truck at our newly rented home in England when Khalid, my Pakistani neighbor came out to meet me. I felt small, white, but very happy.

Sarah Lanier helps us understand a fascinating social reality in her book Foreign to Familiar. She says some cultures, usually those from warmer climates, tend to be warmer in relationships, prioritizing them over time. (This includes most Muslim cultures.) Other peoples, often from chillier regions, value good planning and keeping appointments over hearing the rest of a long story.

Of course there’s much more to it. I think you’d love the book. My experience moving from Holland, the poster child for “Cold-Climate Culture,” to a mostly Pakistani neighborhood in another cold culture, England, was like a case study from the book.

Coming from a cold culture myself, life in Holland felt mostly normal. Direct communication. Punctuality. “You’ve got your bubble. I’ve got mine!”

But I’ve grown to love the blessings of warm climate cultures. Hugs and hummus. Three cups of tea and talks that aren’t time limited. Heaven will be richer for the inclusion of many from such people groups.

For an Indiana boy there are challenges though: Sometimes I just want to yell, “Would it kill you to just say what you mean? To show up when you said you would? To stop bringing me baklava before I’m as big as a battleship.” TBH: I would never say that last one!

Got a great, “dizzy in the opposite culture” story? I’d love to hear it. Thank you.

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Fears That Strip Life from Life

How’s your fear level these days? At the moment, mine’s pleasantly low: I survived a (relatively easy) bout with Covid, finances are fairly stable and I have a reasonably strong sense that both God and my tribe love me.

As you’d guess, none of those things are always clipping along at 100% and it doesn’t take much introspection for me to recall crippling, awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night, fear.

I don’t know where you are right now, but I think we can all agree that fear is no fun. And it’s a wrestling match between what you see and feel and what you believe to be true about God.

PRAYERCAST.com released a beautiful video recently about the fears Muslims experience.

I don’t know if Muslims generally deal with more fear than Christians, there’s so much diversity and so many variables. I do know, however, that some fears are felt more in some Muslim cultures than they are in mine, and probably yours.

The narrator shared his own fear as he grew up regarding others’ perception of him, including the disapproval of God as he understood him from the Quran.

He then prayed for other Muslims who fear. . .

. . .for their own safety, 

. . .being attacked, beaten, raped, 

. . .the future, poverty, suffering, arranged marriage, 

. . .the authorities, secret police, government, 

. . .what might happen if they speak their mind, 

. . .of not conforming to the expectations placed on them, 

. . .asking for help and being vulnerable with people around them, 

. . .asking questions about their faith because of potential consequences, 

. . .rejection, of being disowned, of disapproval, of disappointing the people they love, 

. . .evil, darkness, demonic powers, curses, sickness, accidents, misfortunes, 

. . .the darkness they see inside themselves, 

. . .their own sin being revealed, 

. . .being discovered as a fraud or hypocrite, 

. . .God: his rejection, disapproval, condemnation, 

. . .not measuring up, 

. . .what will happen after they die, 

. . .death itself.

We’ve felt some of these, haven’t we? Others are beyond my imagination. May Muslims all over know Jesus’s reassurance from Luke 12.32, “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

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A Small Good Deed for Eid

Around the world today, Muslims are celebrating Eid Al Fitr, the holiday that basically says, “We did it. We fasted through the month of Ramadan!” Of course in many places, celebrations will be thwarted by lock downs, restrictions and the presence of sickness in the family.

Personally, I’m celebrating a couple of things this morning: 1. I’m recovering from Covid! If you prayed for me, thank you very much. I’m feeling super grateful for life and health. 2. I asked us all to consider fasting at least one meal last Saturday and pray for Muslims during their Night of Power. One hundred and three of us checked the counter saying we were in! Thank you so much! May God hear and answer our prayers beyond all we can ask or imagine!

In many places the end of Ramadan has come with violence and death: The deeply sad and apparently intractable situation with Jews and Palestinians, the uptick of evil in Afghanistan, the ravages of Covid in India, and likely many others situations I know nothing about.

While we pray for the kingdom of God to come, here’s a tiny little bit of kingdom peace you can spread today. Right click the image above (control click for the cool kids!), copy and paste it in your Facebook feed, on Instagram, Twitter, TikToc, Parler or some other nifty social media I’m clueless about.

Doing this will not get us to herd immunity. Nor will it solve the riddles of time and space. And it won’t get us flying cars! But it just might let one person know you see them. And it might encourage one person to see Muslims with a kinder eye.

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Super Short Covid Edition 😷

Dang COVID! I think I’ve turned a corner toward recovery, but still sort of feel like I got rolled over by a giant panda. . .while he was sumo wrestling a hippo!

Even so, I wanted to get a quick word out to you. Laylat al-Qadr, the Night of Power, will be observed by Muslims around the world this Saturday, May 8th. I wrote brieflyabout it last week and asked that we consider fasting at least one meal that day.

As this goes out, 57 of us have signed up, expressing our intention to fast. I’d love to hit 100, so if you’re thinking about it, please click here, then click the little blue-ish plus 1 sign. Super simple.

Brian B, Muslim Connect reader and all around amazing guy, has invited us to join an online prayer gathering Saturday from 8am-8pm est that will meet here. I hope to tune in for part of it. Join me?

Finally, if you’re inclined, I’d be grateful for prayers for recovery. Thank you.

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Coveting “Clean,” Plus a Big Challenge

I once asked my young daughter, “Sweetheart, what is all over your face?” She paused, pondered and asked in return, “Hmmm, I don’t know. What color is it?”

With the possible exception of her, and then only for a very short time in her early life, most of us want to be clean, don’t we? Not just our faces. Our lives, our very souls. We want to be forgiven, free of blame, we want to hear Jesus’s words to the paralytic spoken directly to our faces, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

One way to be clean is to decide that nothing makes you dirty. If there are no rules to break, then there is no guilt to be carried. Alternatively, some religions have developed elaborate rituals, pilgrimages, even literal bathings in this pursuit. For instance, 3.5 million Hindu pilgrims participated in this year’s Khumb Mela pilgrimage. They gathered through out the past month in spite of, and contributing to, the devastating second covid wave that is bringing India to its knees today. The purpose? A sin-cleansing dip in the Ganges.

In a Muslim worldview, the best chance for forgiveness comes on Laylat al-Qadr, the Night of Power, which occurs next week toward the end of Ramadan. It commemorates the beginning of the quranic revelation from God to Muhammad. Many believe that the destiny of your coming year is determined on this night, that sins are forgiven and good deeds are multiplied. (Read more here and determine what your contribution should be based on your net worth!)

My friend Isa challenged me to fast one day during this year’s Ramadan. Since Laylat al-Qadr is such a spiritually active night, I’m planning to fast next Saturday, May 8th. Would you care to join me? You could focus prayers on your Muslim friends, my friend Isa or the Islamic world in general.

I’d like to tell Isa that 100 of my friends are fasting (even one meal would be cool) and praying for him and his brothers and sisters. If you’re willing, please count yourself in here.

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The Sweet Poison of Self-Righteousness

Can you believe people? Some think they’re better than you. Others think they can curry favor from God by doing “good deeds.” Some of them write weekly emails, claiming to tell you how to think about Muslims.

Self-righteousness has two lobes: I do good things to gain the favor of God. And I sense the good things I do (or bad things I don’t) make me better than others.

Some examples of the poison I’ve imbibed over the years, “I’m good, or at least better than you, because I: Go to church. Don’t smoke. Swear little. Live poor. Never been divorced.” Of course, the ship has sailed on some of these.

I’ve long thought of Ramadan as a self-righteousness tour de force. A time when Muslims work hard to gain favor from God. “The less I eat, the more you’ll like me.” And I suppose some fast to show others how darn holy they are!

Now I’m more hesitant than before (though still not very hesitant) to ascribe motivation to anyone’s behavior. The line between fasting to show devotion to God or to curry favor from him is fuzzy at best. I’ve had friends who for all the world seemed to fast because God said to and to show their love and devotion to him.

Even so, I know from myself, the best of efforts can be laced with subtle, but evil intent.

So I pray: “Father, deliver me from the sweet poison of self-righteousness. Deliver us. Deliver Muslims who right now take pleasure in their fasting, trusting in their good deeds to gain right status with you, hoping others are impressed by their religion. For the sake of their beloved souls, take that pleasure away. From them. From me. From all of us. Amen.”

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Starving For Forgiveness

There’s a good chance you’ve fasted more than I have, but there’s a better chance the average Muslim has fasted more than both of us combined!

Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, begins on April 12th or 13th (depending on where you live). While eating and celebrating do occur at night during Ramadan, the fasting activities during the day are arduous: No eating, no drinking, no smoking, no swallowing saliva and no sex.

Ramadan is a time of self-denial in order to honor God. Muslims talk of going without to show thanks to God for what he has done, both good and bad. It is a time of purifying oneself and asking God for forgiveness.

If you’re in close, daily contact with Muslims, I can imagine God might nudge you to fast along with them. Since I’m not planning to do that this year (or likely any other year, to be honest), I’m not advocating for it.

I am planning to do these three things and invite you to join me.

1. Pray. Spiritual activity intensifies during Ramadan, both for Muslims and those reaching out to them. Get prayer help with the pdf version of the gold standard “30 Days of Prayer.” You can also sign up for a daily prayer email. Gather some people together to pray and find ways to encourage your networks to pray for Muslims this month.

2. Learn. Join me in registering for this helpful webinar next Tuesday evening. Ask Muslim friends questions. Maybe start with, “Do you mind if I ask you something about Ramadan?” Sensitive, but curious is a good approach. I was just trying this with a North African friend this morning. I honestly want to know what Ramadan is like for him.

3. Share. Post a brief prayer for your friends and other Muslims during Ramadan on this prayer wall. While you’re there, take a moment to lift up the other requests.

May God multiply our small efforts to his great glory and much abundant life for many Muslims this Ramadan.

 

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Big Announcement!

Ah, but Spring is blooming in my neighborhood and in my heart! Easter is just around the corner and new things are popping up all over. Seems like a good time to bring some newness to bear on this weekly missive.

In an effort to re-fresh and remain relevant to our culture, I’m pleased to announce a new name and new direction for this email. Please join me in welcoming Muslim Correct!

Muslim Correct will now focus on three driving imperatives:

  1. Things that I think are wrong with Muslims.
    For instance, why do they name so many of their boy babies Muhammad? We don’t do that. (Apologies to Latinx readers.) They’re probably trying to dominate baby name popularity lists. Which reminds me, we’ll be focusing more energy on what I believe motivates Muslims, than on what most of them actually do.
  2. Things that readers like you think I am wrong about.
    Come on, I know you’ve been thinking about it! “Who does this guy think he is and what can he really say in 300 words? Plus, I got a newsletter from a guy who quoted another speaker sharing how a Muslim convert thought what most missiologists said and did was rubbish.”
  3. A broader look at things that are wrong with the world and can be made better by sitting on the couch watching Jeopardy and grousing about them. This aspect will hopefully be anchored by guest authors who have a proven track record of calling out Muslims. (Can anyone put me in contact with Jerry Falwell Jr.?)

The outgoing motto for Muslim Connect, you may remember was, “Thinking about Muslims the way God does. Loving Muslims the way Jesus does.”

Get ready, our new motto is: “Thinking about Muslims in ways that make us feel good about ourselves. Loving Muslims from a nice, safe distance.”

Whether you endorse or oppose these new changes, please take a moment to watch this 59 second video. Thank you.

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