Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Go Light Your World

"John himself was not the light; he was only a witness to the light." John 1:8

I thrive in spiritual sunlight where the rule of justice and mercy prevail, bribery is dealt with, honesty is the foundation on which my nation prospers, and where there is a respect for human rights and the equality of all. Yes, my country is flooded with spiritual sunlight. There is no lone flickering candle burning here but rather floodlights like one sees at a stadium in the evenings. I have lived in places where just candles are burning. There is a stark difference.

The longer I am engaged in this ministry the more I have come to treasure spiritual sunlight. Spiritual darkness is encountered frequently. The things I hear are shocking and grievous. There are lies, secrets, conspiracies, two faces, deceptions, and schemes. What am I supposed to do about all those kinds of things? They can loom pretty overwhelming. God has not given me a ministry of condemnation and judging.

 Kiran gave me a birthday card which said, “Thinking of you on your birthday. Only one more year, but so many moments of light you've added to this world.  Keep on shining.”  I wondered if she had any idea what those words meant. The remedy to get rid of the darkness is not to curse the darkness but to light a candle….to shine. There are times when I feel like cursing the darkness but what good is that? I don’t accomplish anything doing that. The problem is we can easily land up cursing the people living in the darkness; not just the darkness itself.  In earlier years my energies were focused on the darkness; to fight it, correct it, condemn it, pray against it, etc. My focus was more on the darkness than giving witness to the light. I began to sound more like a fighter than  a light-shiner.  Eventually all that fighting wore me out until I realized it is more beneficial to be a witness to the light than to fight the darkness. A paradigm shift was made in my praying and ministry.
It has been interesting to observe that the more I walk in spiritual sunlight and give witness to the light something happens. I wish I could say that most of the time my friends are drawn to the light but that is not usually the norm. They often retreat the more the light shines. Sometimes I never hear from them again. We should not be surprised. Jesus said in John 3: 20-21, “They hate the light because they want to sin in the darkness.  They stay away from the light for fear their sins will be exposed and they will be punished.  But those who do what is right come to the light gladly, so everyone can see that they are doing what God wants.”

Being a witness to the light will either repel or draw our friends to Christ. If neither happens then perhaps our witness to the light is still too weak. When there is a reaction, one way or the other, then we know our light is shining. 

Dear heavenly Father, please make me a winsome witness to the light. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Ramadan Conversation

“Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.” Colossians 4:6

“I can’t wait to travel to my country for Ramadan. I love Ramadan,” Hanifa stated passionately. “What do you love about it, Hanifa?” I asked. “I love being in the malls after midnight. You know… all the lights, and crowds and shopping. It’s wonderful. Then I get to see all my family and we enjoy special foods that we eat just during Ramadan.” You’d think she was partying for the month; not fasting.

Young Maryam said excitedly, “Ramadan is coming!” It sounded like a kid counting how many more sleeps until Christmas when she can open her gifts. The gifts will come after Ramadan which brings excitement and anticipation. “My mom fasted yesterday,” she said proudly. Yes, I knew her mom was fasting before Ramadan because she announced it to me. She was making up for the days her period would take place. Even though she doesn’t have to fast during her period she will make up for those days before Ramadan starts.

“What will you do on summer school holidays?” I asked Ali last year. “Fast,” he replied dejectedly. That’s all? I was overcome with sadness and vexation that a young child did not have anything fun to look forward to. After Ramadan I asked some school girls what they did on their summer holidays. “We fasted. It was SOoo boring! You can’t do anything fun.”

We will hear all kinds of responses from our Muslim friends. They are proud of fasting. Some enjoy the month tremendously while others find it challenging if they have to go to school or have jobs. Many Muslims will travel to their homelands where everyone will be fasting and they will enter into the cultural traditions and activities of Ramadan. Perhaps you wonder how you should respond to all the Ramadan talk. For many years I tried to speak into their fasting using Scripture. Most times my conversation was not gracious or effective but more of a theological lecture. It can be challenging having a spiritually fruitful conversation during Ramadan. Fruitful discussions about fasting arise at other times of the year but during Ramadan a strong spirit of works and traditions comes over them making it difficult for them to hear or understand anything different. I usually refrain from visiting my fasting Muslim friends during Ramadan. Sometimes they actually ask me not to come during Ramadan. It is hard to schedule visits anyhow with their routines being changed. However I like to keep in touch by phoning, emailing, or texting them. Normally I do not break the fast with them. Ramadan will pass and things will get back to normal. God sustains our relationships put on hold.

The temptation to make snide remarks or to joke or mock about their fasting constantly arises but to do such is not gracious nor effective. I once lost a Muslim friend over making a snide remark and regret that. Better to keep the mouth shut than make snide remarks and let the Holy Spirit reveal issues. I don’t want any ungracious speech to destroy a relationship.

Dear heavenly Father, please help me to be gracious with my Muslim friends when they talk about fasting. In Jesus’ name, Amen.