Sunday, December 2, 2018

Telling the Christmas Story

“…And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him?....” part of Romans 10:14

Shaheen remarked, “Joy, Christmas has started.  It lasts so long! I’m jealous.  Our Eid is just a few days but Christmas is for so long.  Why can’t we have Eid like Christmas?”  Her jealousy caught me by surprise.  We know that it lasts a long time because it mostly has to do with commercialization, but I thought, hmm….I guess it’s not so bad it lasts a long time if it makes someone jealous.  More time means more opportunities to tell the story.

 Muslims in the West are surrounded by the secular commercialization of Christmas. They are attracted to beautifully decorated Christmas trees and homes, hear the festive carols being sung in malls and perhaps take their children to a Santa parade. There are Christmas or Holiday parties going on everywhere, including ESL schools and in public schools. Many take their children to visit Santa in the mall and have a photo taken. 

When I visit my friends during December I usually ask them, “You have heard the story of Santa but have you ever heard the real story about Christmas?” Often I get the reply they don’t know any other story. “Really? You’ve never heard the real story of Christmas?” I exclaim. I try to build up a desire to want to hear it. “How long have you lived here? Has no one ever told you the real story?” By this time they are curious to know what the real story is all about. “Would you like to hear it?” I ask them. When they say yes I tell them the story. It is as simple as that. They are aware of Mary and baby Jesus(Isa) but not much more than that. Ask them what else they know about the story. There were precise prophecies, angelic visits and dreams, a one-of-a-kind conception, a shocked fiancé, an unusual star, astrologers, a wicked and jealous king who went on a terrorist rampage, shepherds, extravagant gifts appropriate for a king, a significant name given to the baby, Yousef and Maryam and Isa became refugees on the run, etc. It’s a dramatic and exciting story. God has a good plan for the world. I like to capitalize on the meaning of the name of Jesus – as much as they can handle in one sitting. Explaining theology is necessary but they also need to hear the story. Unfortunately sometimes we jump right into theology and doctrinal facts but alas, leave out the story. 

Afterwards I ask them if they understood the story and if so, could they please tell the story back to me because I want to see if they really understood it. I help them if they have difficulty. “And what happened after that?....What does that mean?”....”Who had a jealous eye?” "What does the name Jesus mean?"…and so forth.

They can’t believe in Jesus as Savior if they have never heard the story of Him. Why not try to tell the story to one Muslim friend this Christmas?

Dear heavenly Father, please help me not to be afraid or shy to tell the Christmas story. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, November 5, 2018

*Sexual Brokenness

“….He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart…” Isaiah 40: part of verse 11
 It happened again. I was reading Scripture with Hafiza when suddenly out came her sad story of being sexually abused and violated as a child and wife. My Bible study plan got all messed up. Some phrase in the Bible reading prompted a torrent of memories in some inexplicable way. While we may be trying to teach Bible stories chronologically or trying hard to remember how to address doctrinal objections her biggest need of the moment might be how to find her way through sexual brokenness and dealing with a husband’s addiction to pornography.

It is common to hear about sexual brokenness from Muslim women or women followers of Jesus Christ from Muslim background.  The stories are sad. How are we going to respond? She probably won't be willing to speak to a counselor or pastor. That's not cultural. She may find no one else to talk to about her inner pain but you. And you feel ill-equipped to help her. Help! It could be she had just accepted it as part of her lot in life until she heard programs on talk shows here in the West exposing other women’s experiences. She was shocked those women didn’t seem ashamed to talk about such things openly. But she has felt huge shame and is afraid to dishonor a family member and be blamed or shunned. It’s important to listen to her carefully and pray for her healing. She will need to be informed about healthy boundaries and self- respect and how to say ‘no’ to demands that violate her. She doesn’t need to agree to watch sexually explicit movies with her husband. All of this might be new to her and will need to be repeated numerous times. In an Islamic country it is certainly a very difficult area for us to give counsel if there is no legal system in place to protect a violated woman. There aren't easy answers.

Probably the biggest thing we can do for her is pray for her and introduce the Good Shepherd to her, assuring her that she is like a much loved lamb. She will find comfort from a picture in a Bible story book of Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding a lamb close to His bosom. When we pray for her, it’s comforting to verbally state how she is like Jesus’ lamb. Use her name while praying. Sing a song over her about Jesus being the Shepherd. Pray in Jesus' powerful name to cleanse her from a sense of defilement and shame. Assure her it is not her fault. It will be a long journey to find healing, as it is with any woman(Christian or Muslim) anywhere in the world, but it is possible!

The one thing as Christian women we need to be on guard for is that we don’t develop a dislike or hatred of Muslim men. That won't get us anywhere. We all have fallen short of God's glory - men and women. There is a lot of gender brokenness in our world. I want to see it healed and redeemed, not make it worse.

Dear heavenly Father, please comfort Your lambs who are broken and hurting. Carry them close to Your heart of love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.