Monday, June 10, 2019

Proclaiming Boldly

“…He welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the Kingdom of God with all boldness and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ…” Acts 28:30b

Fatuma visited a drop in program for young immigrant mothers and preschool children at a nearby church. One of the children asked, “Where is God?” That caused an interesting discussion among them but no one gave a definitive answer. Fatuma said, “Even the leader didn’t know the answer.” I listened with some alarm arising in my heart wondering why the leader at the church run program had not given a clear answer. Fatuma was disappointed that she received no answer. It was thrilling to engage in conversation with her about that mystical question and she listened keenly.

No matter how kind we may be to a Muslim woman she will not know the Good News about Jesus Christ if she doesn’t hear anything. She does not know the story of salvation. In some lands which uphold democratic values and freedom of religion such as mine we have been made to believe it is not appropriate to share our faith verbally. Some Christians think it's not "politically correct" or even permissible to share our faith. So, we resort to being kind and doing good deeds.  That is necessary and helpful for sure - just not complete.

It took a long time for me to boldly and clearly proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to Muslims. I was usually fearful my friendships would be over, objections would be thrown at me, or that I would offend them. A Christian lady once asked me, “Joy, doesn’t it bother you to tell Muslims that they will go to hell?” I replied, “They already are afraid of going to hell and are very aware of their bad deeds and being punished. What they need to hear about is the Good News of how they can get to heaven and have their sins forgiven.” I don’t spend as much time proclaiming hell and punishment as much as heaven and a risen Savior who forgives sin and loves them. Muslims often won’t agree with what we proclaim but they do admire bold proclamation.

I haven't met a Muslim woman who has accepted Jesus as her Savior without hearing or reading about the gift of salvation found in Him. She may have a dream or vision which points towards Jesus Christ. But she still needs further explanation and information. A miraculous healing can convince her that Jesus is powerful but she still needs to know the Gospel message of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished on her behalf. It has been a thrilling journey of rising above my fears and hesitancy and diving in to proclaim the Good News. It is helpful to do that within the context of a loving and trusting relationship with our Muslim friends. I believe our biggest need is for boldness and that comes from the Holy Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit for boldness. He will surely give it to us. And then… take the plunge. We will be in for a pretty exciting experience. I don’t think there is anything more exciting and energizing than proclaiming the Good News. We will be shocked at what comes out of our mouths. You will wonder, hey, where did that come from? Surprise - from the Holy Spirit!

Dear heavenly Father, I admit I am afraid to proclaim. I need boldness. Please help me to open my mouth and speak. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Celebrating Pentecost

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth….he lives with you now and later will be in you.” John 14: parts of 16-17

Sadia asked, “Joy, do you know what that is on the coffee table?” “Yes, I do, Sadia. It’s the kaaba,” I replied. The big plastic cube with the black kaaba encased in it was a new addition to their living room décor. Sadia was very proud of it and looked at it affectionately. Now she thought, I have the house of Allah right in my living room. I could tell the structure gave a sense of order and a “closeness” to Allah. Inwardly I prayed, Thank you, Lord that you have made your home within me. Thank you for Pentecost!

Amal has a way of defending Islam every time I visit her. We won’t even be having any spiritual conversation and her defenses go up. Usually the conversation is about Islamic rules which pertain to wearing the hijab, prayers and fasting, refraining from pork and alcohol or interest free banking, etc. I can tell that Amal is searching for approval from Allah. Thank You, Lord, that I don’t have to live by the law but can enjoy life in the Spirit. Thank you for Pentecost!

Muslims have just completed Ramadan. There is no other time in the Muslim calendar that emphasizes living by law more than Ramadan. I want to shout my gratitude to God how He brought about a glorious paradigm shift from law to grace. I celebrate my freedom in Christ.  

A Libyan Muslim lady asked me one day, “Joy, if Jesus died and came alive, where is He now?” “He’s right here, my friend,” I replied. A Somali man asked me, “Joy, what does Pentecostal mean?” “You really want to know, Abdi?” I asked. “Yeah,” he said. He listened in utter amazement to the story of Pentecost. Wow! I never tire reading the story in Acts 2. The rushing wind, the tongues of fire, the speaking in unlearned languages, the force of witnessing power and Presence unleashed among the bewildered people from many nations – what can be more thrilling?

Recently I tried to imagine what it would be like if Jesus Christ just died, was resurrected, ascended to heaven and that was the end. What if there had been no Pentecost – no coming of the Spirit of Jesus Christ to reside in us? Pentecost changes everything! One thing is for sure: I would not be in ministry among Muslims if the Holy Spirit had not come on Pentecost. I would not dare venture out to share my faith with Muslims if I did not have the Holy Spirit living within me. It’s important to clarify to our Muslim friends that in the Bible the Holy Spirit(al-Ruh al-Quds) is not the angel Gabriel(Jibril). I not only want to share about the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus to my Muslim friends but also tell them about Pentecost. Often we share about the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus and then skip to the return of Christ but leave out Pentecost. 

Dear heavenly Father, please help me not to be reticent to talk about Pentecost to my Muslim friends. In Jesus’name, Amen.