Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Listening to the Spirit

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit, and understand what he is saying to the churches.” Rev. 3:6

The printer at Staples told me he’d call my name over the intercom when the print job would be finished. After a long wait walking around the store I went to check. "I have been paging you numerous times but you did not come", he explained. Hmm… I usually hear clearly. How could it be that I never heard my name being paged over a loud intercom? It bothered me that I had not heard. If I could not hear an audible voice maybe I would miss hearing the Holy Spirit’s inaudible voice. I don’t want to miss hearing what the Spirit might be saying to the churches – or to me; especially in regards to Muslim women receiving opportunity to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. His thoughts and ways are not like our thoughts and ways. To get this accomplished He might use an unusual way of speaking. It appears that God is using some Muslim women to bring attention to the whole world about their hurts and needs! It is coming from their mouths.

We are living in unprecedented times when certain Muslim women, particularly in western nations, are speaking, writing and sharing their hearts. Just take a walk through a secular book store and you will see numerous books authored by Muslim women. They are the voices of Muslim women feminists, reformers, and human rights activists. Some books are accounts of women relaying their stories of abuse and suffering.  They don’t represent the experiences of all Muslim women but for those they do, I believe the Holy Spirit is stirring them up and using them to expose harmful and hurtful treatment or traditions via the medium of books, blogs, documentaries and You Tube viewings. It is better the exposure comes from these Muslim women than from us. They carry heavy burdens of concern or scars of physical injuries and won’t be silenced. Some walk a dangerous path. They might not have the answers but they are instruments through which exposure is taking place. I believe the Church needs to be aware of these voices, but even more what is the Holy Spirit trying to tell the Church? How we respond to their voices is really important. After you have read one of those books or viewed a certain link or documentary how did you find yourself responding? Angry? Helpless?

I dare not let anger or oppression overtake me as I get exposed through books and documentaries and then scurry into a self-protective parking mode. Today a lady sent me fifteen links of dreadful information. She is immobilized with fear, anger and helplessness and parked there. I believe the Spirit is saying to the Church: Don’t park there. Rise above anger and fear.  No eternal redemptive good will come from just being angry and spreading alarm. Personally, I primarily want to understand better how to take Muslim women to the cross where redemptive healing fully takes place. I want to be actively involved in such a ministry – not just read books and links. The ultimate answers are not found in courtrooms, vindictive diatribes or religious systems, but in our living Savior, Jesus Christ. He is our only certain hope. He is gentle and will never disappoint anyone. He brings healing. Yes, I want to be aware of all the issues which are being exposed and listen to their voices but most of all I am listening for the Spirit’s voice.

Dear heavenly Father, I don’t want to miss hearing Your messages. Please keep my ears open. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

An Embarrassing Failure

Jesus’ words:  “And this is the way to have eternal life – to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” John 17:3

I am grateful for the Bible memorization classes I had to be part of at Bingham Academy.  Every morning before classes commenced we gathered to memorize hundreds of Bible verses and entire chapters; even the books of Ephesians and Philippians.  Charts were on the walls showing our achievements. At the end of the school year prizes would be given to those with the highest achievements.  I loved memorizing verses and usually won prizes. They rolled off my tongue like water off a duck’s back. You might conclude that I was really knowledgeable about the Bible but the grade on my report card in fourth grade in the subject called “Bible” showed a glaring F. Memorizing was one thing; understanding the Bible was another! Knowing God had not yet started either. That F, signifying “failure”, was serious. Would I be withheld permission to pass into fifth grade? To further complicate the matter I am a twin. Would John and I go into separate classes? I don’t know what discussions went on behind the scene but I was allowed to pass into grade 5.  My missionary parents must have been shocked that their daughter failed Bible.

 My Muslim friend was studying for a test. She found samples of tests with their answers and memorized the answers. The only problem was she didn’t fully understand the questions and answers. She could read the questions fairly well even though many words were still not understood at all.  It enabled her to get the gist of the question and then memorized the answer. I tried to help her to see it was important to not only memorize but to understand what she was supposed to learn.  Memorizing answers for a test may help us pass, but it cannot turn us into a good driver, responsible citizen, or skilled medical practitioner.

Many of my non-Arabic speaking Muslim friends are proud of the fact that they read or memorize the Qur’an in Arabic even though they cannot understand it.  They say their required memorized nimaz prayers in Arabic even though they don’t understand what they are saying. They may try to convince themselves that memorizing is what counts, not the understanding.  My Arab friends are more fortunate linguistically because they are able to understand the Qur’an and their memorized nimaz.

There is earthly value in memorizing. Certainly it is good exercise for our brains. We also tend to retain information we have memorized. But memorizing without understanding is not of much value. If we cannot understand then we also cannot apply the memorizing to every day living.  As impressive as memorizing the Bible or the  Qur’an is it cannot qualify us to enter heaven or make us better people.   It cannot bring us merit before God nor make us right with Him. It can be helpful to have a conversation with our Muslim friends about memorizing versus really knowing God. Like I experienced as a child, we can achieve memorizing and even win prizes but fail to know God!

Dear heavenly Father, help my Muslim friends to want to know You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.