Friday, December 10, 2010

A quick review of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

As you consider whether the new Narnia movie is worth the view, here are a few considerations:

Identity crisis and the Kingdom of God: From its opening scene the Voyage of the Dawn Treader established itself as a study in identity. Edmund struggles with his royalty in Narnia chaffing against his age in Cambridge. Lucy we'll learn later despairs over her own identity as overcast by the beauty of Susan. A third character, Eustace Scrubb, has yet to discover his identity as a child, believing facts superior to fantasy and thus unable to see himself as involved in a story more magnificent than any dream.

Mission and the Kindgom of God: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader sails on a current of mission over self ambition and thus provides for viewers a narrative describing what it means to undergo suffering for the sake of the ultimate goal. While all along succumbing to the temptation to fulfill their own desires, the characters are awakened each time by the hand of providence to who they are and how that identity is inextricable from the mission to save a world from sleepy destruction.

Imagination and the Kingdom of God: In the end Aslan faces the weeping of children sad to leave Narnia and return to their world, but the Lion reminds them He's called by a different name. He brings them to the world of Narnia for a little while so they can name him better in their world. And so viewers are left realizing Lewis' intent, that this world of imagination feeds the life we live outside the imagination, emboldens us to live it bravely, reminds us for whom we live it.

Churches and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader: This film beautifully narrates many points along the journey of the Christian life, including sin and temptation, self and the mission, grace versus works in salvation and the importance of living in the world but not with the world's desires. It's a beautiful film perfect for bridge building, illustrating the work of the kingdom of God, and is perhaps the most theologically astute and nuanced of the three movies.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How to Pray Creatively During Ramadan

Look for ways to make your times of prayer varied and interesting. The 30-Days Prayer Network has some creative ways you can pray during the month of Ramadan. For instance, using Google Earth find a Muslim country and zoom in on a particular city. Pray for the people living there as you "walk" through the city.

“The Night of Power” on Day 27 is a strategic night of prayer. This Sunday night, September 5th, is what is called the "Night of Power" in the Muslim world. It is a strategic night of prayer. During this night, which is close to the end of Ramadan, many Muslims have told stories about experiencing Jesus through dreams and visions and about many miraculous things happening. Consider setting aside this night for an all night prayer time with your church or mission group. 

For more ideas visit 30-Days Prayer Network.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Revealing Ramadan - Sara

By Carol Pipes
Yesterday, I met a young woman named Sara* at a local college campus. I was with a volunteer team from Clarkston International Bible Church in Clarkston, Georgia. Using Soularium cards, we were engaging students in conversation about God and other spiritual matters.

Sara is from Syria but she moved here from Kuwait where most of her family still lives. She misses her family but isn't interested in moving back to Kuwait. When I asked her to describe God, she used words like beautiful, protector, giver of life. Interesting, I thought. I asked her if she attended church anywhere while at school. Sara told me that she was Muslim and attended a local mosque. She also told me she was observing Ramadan.

"I haven't broken my fast," she informed me.

With that, we ventured into a discussion about Ramadan and fasting. I asked her why she felt she needed to fast and how it impacted her life.

"I fast because it is tradition," she said. "It makes me more aware of those who do not have anything to eat. It also makes me feel closer to God."

I asked her if it was easier to observe Ramadan in Kuwait or the United States. "Oh, it's definitely easier to observe Ramadan in Kuwait," she said. "In Kuwait, everyone fasts. Here, there is much more temptation. There is food everywhere. Even in class there are students eating next to me."

She said that being able to overcome that temptation made her feel stronger.

I told her about the church and the ministries they provided to internationals just moving to the states and that perhaps her family members might check them out when they moved here.

She took a card with information and then was off to her next class.

We're about half-way through Ramadan. In the next couple of weeks, pray for Sara and others like her who are fasting.
Pray that God would reveal Himself through dreams and visions.
Pray that American Muslims who are discovering the living Messiah would become a source of life and inspiration for other Muslims in the U.S. and in their homelands.
Visit 30-Days Prayer Network for more ways you can pray.

*Name has been changed.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Call to Prayer

Imagine a Middle Eastern man breaking from his morning tea a few steps ahead of the dawn call to prayer. He shuffles peacefully down a sidewalk to join his friends and family. Imagine the sound of the muezzin, that man with impressive lungs who summons the Muslim community to five prayers daily toward Mecca.
In a Middle Eastern country he might stand on the minaret of the mosque pronouncing from on high the dawn, midday, middle afternoon, evening, and sundown prayers. In Dearborn, Michigan, the local muezzin has access to a loudspeaker, and even from a mile away you can hear his voice.
Imagine crowds of men and women in saris and scarves shuffling toward the mosque past local shops advertising Halal meat. They file in. Kneel on rugs. 
This is not the Middle East, but Michigan—a place where you expect hockey, industry, brutal winters, good old hardworking mid-America. Middle Easterners who’ve worked in the auto industry for decades fill many of the jobs that move the Michigan economy. Over 800,000 live in Michigan.
Muslims along with Catholics and Christians from Middle Eastern countries have settled the area bringing their religion and culture, but also a strong desire to “be American,” says one North American Mission Board missionary, who’s been sharing the gospel with Middle Easterners in Michigan the last five years. “They’ve come to America to be Americans.” The church has an opportunity to help with that and to share Christ as well.
Across the entire Islamic world, the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer five times a day: at dawn (fajr), noon (dhuhr), in the afternoon (asr), at sunset (maghrib) and nightfall (isha'a). On Fridays all male Muslims are expected to attend the noon time prayers at a local mosque. Today, Muslims will be preparing themselves for Friday prayer. This includes a ritual washing in order to be pure for prayer. 
As Muslims here in the U.S. and around the world prepare for Friday prayers and fast during Ramadan, pray that God would reveal Himself and that they would meet the true, living Messiah, Jesus Christ.
To find out more about Islam and how you can pray for your Muslim friends during Ramadan visit the 30-Days Prayer Network.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Prayer for the Muslim World

Ramadan begins tomorrow, August 11 and ends on September 9th. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. It is during this month that Muslims observe the Fast of Ramadan. Muslims worldwide will rise early tomorrow morning and eat breakfast before the day begins. They will not have anything to eat or drink until nightfall. This will continue for the next 30 days. Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and one of the highest forms of Islamic worship.

Over the next month, join us as we pray for our Muslim friends, neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances. 

Today, pray that God would prepare our hearts as we seek to pray for the Muslim world. Pray that God would give us a Christ-like attitude toward Muslims. Pray that all Christians would live out Christ's command to love others.

Islam Facts: The Five Pillars
The Islamic religion is lived out according to five main "pillars" which are obligatory religious practices for all adult Muslims. One of the "pillars" is the month of fasting (Ramadan) which is translated as "Saum" in Arabic
1. Reciting the Creed (Shahada in Arabic)- "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet."
2. Prayer (Salat)- Five times each day. Just before sunrise (Fajr), Noon (Dhuhr), Afternoon (Asr), Sunset (Maghrib), Evening (Isha). Prayer is, in this sense, an expression of submission to the will of Allah.
3. Almsgiving (Zakat)- Both obligatory and voluntary giving to the poor. The Qur'an teaches the giving of two and one-half percent of one's capital wealth to the poor and/or for the propagation of Islam.
4. Fasting (Saum)- Especially during the "holy" month of Ramadan. During the 30 days of Ramadan Muslims are forbidden from eating or drinking from sunup to sundown. After sunset, feasting and other celebrations often occur. The daylight hours are set aside for self-purification.
5. Pilgrimage (Hajj)- All Muslims who are economically and physically able are required to journey as a pilgrim to Mecca (in current day Saudia Arabia) at least once in their lifetime.
To learn more about Islam, visit

Friday, June 18, 2010

Muslims, Christ and the women who love them

The word "Muslim" stirs mixed emotions among Americans. Fear, skepticism and stereotypes have fueled misunderstandings between Muslims and Christians in the years following 9/11, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have raised a deeper awareness both of great danger and desperation found among Muslim-populated areas worldwide.

As part of your own soul searching, how do you respond when you see a veiled head, hear conversations in Arabic, or experience any of the other artifacts pointing to worshipers of Allah?

It was MSC missionary Cherie Gray in Tucson, Arizona, who first opened our eyes to the Islamic world of African refugees as, unhindered by language, religion and stereotypes, she offered the practical presence of the Gospel among families disoriented in their transition from refugee camps in Somalia to a desert valley city in the wild west United States.

MSC missionary Pat Maddox in Clarkston, Georgia, was next. Daily, through her work with Friends of Refugees, she visited the families freshly arrived from Somalia, Morocco, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, offering them bread, English lessons, assistance with moves, furniture or just the presence of a caring person. Through partnerships with local relief agencies and churches she also demonstrated practically the work of Christ in her life.

And just recently we spoke with Annie Taylor*, a NAMB Nehemiah Church Planter serving in another town in the southeastern United States where Muslim families have established communities and strong Muslim culture, but where God is at work through dreams and visions and the willingness of faithful believers willing to enter the lives of Muslims. For Annie, it's through deep connections with Muslim women.

"There's a window of opportunity of about a year," says Annie. "When they come to the states if they meet a true Christian within the first year, they are much more likely to accept Christ."

By spending hours with families, attending birthday parties for the prophet Muhammed and making Muslim women her true friends, Annie has experienced God's work.

"They'll tell me the story of how in a dream Jesus was standing at the edge of their bed. He'll say something like 'I am the truth.' This happens more than you would believe."

In a recent book, Woman to Woman, another Christian woman, Joy Loewen, recounts her journey from indifference and even fear to love and friendship with the Muslim women in her life. Her book is a memoir but it's also a manual for understanding the mind of a Muslim woman. Just as the missionaries mentioned above, Loewen chronicles the complexity of culture among Muslim women who are responding to the gentle love of Christ as believers are faithful in sharing His Good News.

It was a fashion show, just as I expected, writes Loewen. Approximately two hundred women, lavishly dressed and happily chattering away in Arabic, Persian and Urdu, entered the hall carrying large pans of fragrant meats and sweet dishes. I knew I was in for a delectable treat of Eastern cuisine. Scanning the room quickly, I realized I was the lone Caucasian woman. I braced myself and asked God to make me stand tall and ryal like Queen Esthers, who name my parents had intentionally chosen for my middle name. As I prayed and viewed all this from the doorway, my nervousness fled and enjoyment rose within me.

As we consider how to share Christ in the real world among Muslims, what is keeping us from appreciating their rich culture and some amazing opportunities to help them know the one true God through Jesus?

--Adam Miller

More resources

What does Islam teach about Jesus? Jesus and the Koran

Christianity and Islam. What's the difference?

Mistakes Christians make with Muslims. Common mistakes

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Go dog go

She's 18 inches tall. She eats flies. But as far as North America Mission Board missionary Andrew Mann is concerned, his Labrador Retriever is a full-fledged – albeit four-legged –"missionary." See how God is using a trained therapy dog, and her owner, to bring people to Jesus in one of New York City's toughest neighborhoods.