Friday Books

After a long hiatus, Friday Books returns with a book that will be available in limited quantities at the church’s Information Center ($10) this Sunday.  Pastor Mark Dever’s book on sharing your faith is brief (112 pages) but no lightweight.  The Gospel and Personal Evangelism does what in my opinion every book on evangelism should do: spell out what the gospel is (thankfully including repentance and the call to discipleship).  On the other hand, it doesn’t offer another canned presentation technique.  (Knowing one does help so I suggest the Bridge Illustration, The Gospel Poem, or the Romans’ Road [all available at the Info Center].)  And if you want a formula promising, “Do this and that will happen”, you’ll be disappointed.  Furthermore, G & PE dismisses any and all psychological pressure or manipulation to “close the sale”.  This is a book that simply calls the church to faithfully tell, and let God convert.

the gospel & pers ev

G & PE is packed with sound doctrine, common sense, wisdom, and warnings.  Warnings because our message contains some hard parts (we’re all sinners); warnings because today just about every deed has a shot at being labelled “evangelism” from delivering food to the needy, to not swearing and showing up for work on time.  Warnings because some mistakenly believe that their story of coming to faith, is sharing their faith.  Yet in too many instances the gospel story is mysteriously absent in those stories.

Finally, Dever hits the high points of why we tell people about Jesus: obedience, love for people, but especially, love for God.

The call to evangelism is the call to turn our lives outward from focusing on ourselves and our needs to focusing on God and on others made in his image who are still at enmity with him, alienated from him, and in need of salvation from sin and guilt,  We bring God glory as we speak the truth about him to his creation.  This is not the only way that we can bring glory to God, but it is one of the chief ways that he has give us as Christians, as those who know him through his grace in Christ.  …it is one of the special privileges of living now, in this fallen world.

It’s Ramadan

Islam is the second fastest growing faith in the world with over 1 1/2 billion people.  Last week Muslims in every nation began celebrating Ramadan.  Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and during those days Muslims do not eat, drink, smoke, or have sexual relations between sunup and sundown.  They are also urged to read through the entire Qur’an.  Ramadan is a time to purge oneself of impurities, and to promote reflection and generosity.

It’s vital that Christians who love Muslims understand something about their faith.  This simple primer is by Zane Pratt.

Six Beliefs of Islam

“Islamic theology could be summarized as belief in [1] one God, [2] his prophets, [3] his books, [4] his angels, [5] his decrees, and [6] the final judgment. Islam teaches that humans are born spiritually neutral, perfectly capable of obeying God’s requirements completely, and that they remain this way even after they’ve personally sinned. The need of humanity, therefore, is not salvation but instruction; hence Islam has prophets, but no savior.”

Five Pillars of Islam

“These are composed of

  1. the confession of faith (“There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet”), 
  2. prayer (the ritual prayers said in Arabic five times a day while facing Mecca and performing the prescribed set of bowings, kneeling, and prostrations), 
  3. alms (taken as a tax in some officially Islamic countries),
  4. fasting (the lunar month of Ramadan, during which Muslim believers fast during daylight hours but can eat while it’s dark), and
  5. pilgrimage (the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, which every Muslim believer should make once in his or her lifetime).

Two Types of Muslims

“The two major denominations of Muslims are Sunni and Shi’a. Sunnis are the vast majority, at 85 percent of all Muslims. The split occurred in the first generation after Muhammad’s death and was based on a dispute over who should succeed him as leader of the Islamic community.”

During this spiritual highlight, ask God to reveal His Son to them.  If you happen to have a Muslim neighbor, classmate or co-worker, get to know him/her.  Take the time to ask questions, pray, and show tangible expressions of Christ’s love; make friends.  God loves that person very much.

A Jordanian resident of New Jersey who came to faith in Christ, admits, “It’s not easy to minister to Muslims.  They are good people who love and revere God.  I was one of them, and if it weren’t for a faithful Christian who loved me for three years, I wouldn’t have seen the light of salvation through Jesus Christ.”  Love for Jesus becomes love for others.

A plea here: If you are mad at rank-and-file Muslims because the popular voices of their faith advocate death for those who disagree or who change their faith, your wrath is misguided.  They are no different from others of various faiths–or no faith: Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God (2 Cor.4:4, NLT).  Instead of bristling when we see a hijab, maybe we could pray for that person and the family.  Especially during Ramadan.

(I highly recommend J.D. Greear’s book, Breaking Islam’s Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim; it’s a pleasant read and very understandable.)

Apparently, I’m a Bigot

In a sermon when I say that I know the depth of human depravity because I see the sin in my heart, some people wish I’d go farther and reveal one or two of those sins or temptations.  Recently, one curious person asked me bluntly, “So what are the areas you struggle with?”  I think he then realized how bold it sounded and backed off, “Maybe you don’t want to say.”  Although some people are open books on such things, I admitted I don’t usually share my major vulnerabilities except with my accountability partner on the elder team or my wife.

But even I don’t know about all the sordid pools in my life.  Sometimes, the Spirit of God gloriously and horrifically exposes them.  Like He did 2 weeks ago.  Growing up, my family occasionally went camping…, maybe 5 times.  On the other hand, my wife’s family were avid campers and those memories remain highlights of her childhood.  When we got married we bought a tent and gear and became a camping family too.  Sort of.  I never quite had Betty’s passion for exchanging our comfy home for a sleeping bag, humidity, rain, mud, mosquitoes and treks to the rest rooms at a distance.  But we went occasionally and did build family memories.  Since I’ve been a pastor, it’s become even more difficult because weekends are pretty much out.  But we have our second popup and just returned from a wonderful week in nature with the grandchildren.

Where God pulled out His scalpel and after cutting through my smug confidence, produced some prejudice I was embarrassed to see.  Several days after we set up camp, two large extended families from different ethnic groups (which shall remain unidentified) arrived at the campground.  I felt some discomfort when I saw them.  After sensing this several times, I started to pay greater attention to my reaction when I saw them and concluded, “I believe I resent their presence”.  My next step (honestly, the thought process wasn’t this neat and tidy but I’m summarizing) was to ponder why I was resentful.  After some consideration, I realized that in my 50 years of camping , usually the only folks at the campgrounds we stayed at were white; and were almost always “Indigenous Americans” (no, not from groups like the Sioux, Blackfeet, or Comanche nations!).  What I mean is that in campground rest rooms over the years, I was accustomed to only bumping into people who spoke English exclusively, who did so without an accent, who wore bathing suits to the pool instead of dresses, whose customs were “mainstream America”.  In other words, deep down I didn’t feel these people belonged in an American campground.

This ugly discovery was all stirred up again when I read a Noah Filipiak blog post How America’s Past Breeds Racial Profiling Today [].  In it he posts this video which offers disturbing evidence that bigotry is still mainstream in white America.  I would have believed that I’m above that.  Apparently not.

I recently completed the most incredible course I’ve ever taken: Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.  It’s about God’s global plan to call out a people for Himself from every tribe, tongue and and nation.  As Betty and I finished this course we were filled with a breathtakingly renewed vision of God’s love for all people groups–and His hope that we will love them too.

Apparently, except at the campground.  Father forgive me.




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