Posts Tagged ‘Encountering the World of Islam’

I’m not too into accomplishments, but it is nice to get things in the mail. I passed all three of my classes this semester and received my Level 1 certification in Biblical counseling, an A and a certification of completion in my Muslim class and I got an A in photography at CGCC. I am thankful to have learned some incredible material and skills this year that I can apply to life and thankful to God for providing these opportunities.

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I had a pretty long conversation the other day with a friend of mine about spiritual warfare. She is big time into thinking demons are very real in our daily walk. Last week I studied about Folk Islam. It’s a catch-all phrase for Muslims who practice both orthodox Islam practices with animistic practices. Most Muslims believe that God very distant from them and that they need to rely on things like magic and rituals to harness supernatural powers because they themselves feel powerless. Just studying this spiritual realm of Islam has gotten me asking me my own questions of what I believe about the Spirit world.

Maybe we don’t always practice animistic ways as Christians to manipulate God, but do we truly always turn to God for everything? Is there really any difference in how we approach our probelms than those that practice rituals when a loved one is sick? Many of us choose to take our own actions instead of asking and trusting that God is Sovereign. As Christians, we need to understand that Spirits are for real and you see this throughout scripture (For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Ephesians 6:12). Jesus and the disciples really did drive demons out of people – they weren’t just stories. We need to be prepared daily for these forces of darkness that prey upon us with Christ’s supernatural authority that he gives us. It’s why he died on the cross for us. I have been better at not trying to look at others as an enemy, but more that Satan is using them to tempt me and cause brokenness in my relationships with them. I try to pray in the Spirit for all occasions and trials.

Evil Spirits in India

When I was India, I was walking through the red-light district and saw pictures of demons posted on these huts where prostitution took place overnight. I also saw shrines that housed cobras for worship. I felt a darkness over this place and I remember having to pray in that moment as I knew evil Spirits resided here. I also attended a worship service out in a remote village and witnessed people shaking and foaming at the mouth as we sang worship songs (My Pastor had a look of terror on his face – I don’t think seminary prepared him for this). Just seeing people oppressed by Spirits firsthand made this spiritual realm more real to me.

I think my comfortable lifestyle in the U.S. makes me overlook the spiritual battle going on in my own backyard. I tend to forget that there is a war going on here too. I truly believe people can be oppressed by demons when they are enveloped by their own sin. I believe Satan puts a clamp on us and blinds us to the truth. I can think of many times that I was in sin and don’t remember it. This just makes me remember to pray for those that are lost and to be prepared spiritually for the battle Satan is waging on us.

“Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.   Luke 10:17-18

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For my assignment this week, I needed to spend some time in the Muslim community. The whole purpose of this assignment is to shed our prejudices and learn to love Muslims. I wasn’t ready yet to full on walk into a mosque, so I decided to hang around some middle eastern restaurants. My first stop was Haji-Baba in Tempe. I drive by it a lot and I had heard the food is really good. The part that I made a mistake is that I went at lunch time. It was so crowded that I couldn’t even get a word in with anyone. I spoke with the cashier and asked him how long the restaurant had been around. He said about 26 years and said he had been here about 5 years. He was young and there was a long line, so I ditched the conversation and let him work.

The next day I went to Cafe Istanbul. I had been here with a friend in the past and they are not as busy. I saw a couple of Muslims smoking a hookah on the patio and thought about joining them. But I wasn’t really down for smoking a hookah at that time. I ordered some food and chatted with the waitress. She was from Lebanon and mentioned she had been with the restaurant for about 20 years. I asked her if there was a community of Muslims nearby and she said a lot of them live close to the area. I then decided to disengage with the conversation after that just to observe my boundaries of chatting with a Muslim female. The food was good and I left.

I went to an Indian restaurant next to my place called the Bay Leaf cafe. India has a heavy Muslim population and I’d figured I give it a shot. The gentleman I talked to came to America because his wife got a job here. He has been here eight years and is from a city close to Chennai – the city I flew into when I went to India. We had a good talk, but once again he seemed a little busy with customers and I decided to let him be.

I was driving in Tempe and decided to pull over and pray about this assignment. I prayed that God would provide an opportunity that I would have a deeper conversation with a Muslim and that he would break down my fears of doing so. After I prayed, I looked up and saw the top of a mosque behind a building. Next to it was the Phoenicia cafe – a little middle eastern place with a marketplace. It was late and I decided to get some chai.

The gentleman that helped me was starting to clean and close shop. I told him I was expanding my interests and trying to learn about different cultures. He thought that was good and continued to listen to my questions. I think he got the clue that I was serious about wanting to know more about Muslims and he dropped his broom and sat with me. He said he loved being in America. He is from Morocco and he hated how the people in Spain and England treat Muslims. He said in America, we are nice to them and at least smile. I told him that I don’t like learning from media and television about his culture and that I wanted to learn from having relationships and conversations with them. He told me even though I’m a Christian and he is Islam, I am his brother. He mentioned that he would tell me all that I wanted to know about Islam and that he wouldn’t push it on me. He said it is the will of Allah that one becomes Muslim and that it is a choice. He shared his family life and how different his culture is from ours. He also mentioned all the tables are round there and that everyone shares the same cup and bread. Respect is always given to the father and then the mother who cooks the food. He then told me his faith comes from Allah and that he believes if you have good people around you, you will have a good life. He told me a story about how he needed $582 to pay all his bills last month. He prayed to Allah and he was offered some extra shifts to work that next weekend. He made exactly $582 that weekend and was able to pay all of his bills. We says he doesn’t worry anymore because Allah always provides if you believe. We had a wonderful time together drinking chai and talking about our different worldviews. Is name is Hakim and we are going to meet again next week.

This was a wonderful week and I am thankful God is breaking down my own fears and prejudices about Muslims. I had a lot of them after 9/11. There of course are some extreme groups out there (just like we have them here), but they really are a loving community of people. If you want to read about some of the food I ate, check my food blog entry at Food, Art and Culture.

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This picture is amazing to me. It’s a picture of the fifth pillar of Islam – the pilgrimage to Mecca (or Hajj). These Muslims have traveled far to the birthplace of Muhammad to worship Allah. In the middle is the Ka’aba – a holy shine that houses the Holy Black Stone. Tradition says that Adam built the shrine and that Abraham and Ishmael repaired it after the flood. There are many ceremonies and rituals that take place during this time.

I am learning that there are many parallels in both Christian disciplines and Islam. This course has really helped me with my perspective on Muslims and that Islam was birth mainly out of distortions of scripture and the absence of Christians reaching out to Muslims during that time. Here are some verses that show what the Bible says about each pillars.

1. Shahada (Confession) – Deut. 6:4 (There is only one God)

2. Salat (Prayer) – 1 Thess. 5:17 (We must pray continually)

3. Zalat (Giving) – 2 Cor. 8:7 (We must excel in the grace of giving)

4. Saum – (Fasting) – Matt. 6:16-18 (Fast only to our Father, not for boasting)

5. Hajj – (Pilgrimage) – Heb. 12:1, 1 Peter 2:11-12 (having honorable conduct free from fleshly lusts)

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I just completed my first week in my Encountering the World of Islam class. This class is really stirring up my heart for the Muslim culture. I have always been drawn to go to a Muslim country someday in my life. But the more I read and study, the more it seems it may be a reality someday. I have such a desire to reach out and share my life and the gospel to Muslims and I want to know how to do that. God has changed my heart so much since 9/11 when I was prejudice against Muslims. Since taking Pathways a few years back and working alongside with Frontiers, God has changed all that about me.

Tonight I attended a seminar given by Carl Medeiras. I don’t think it is a coincidence at all that this occurred the same time that I am taking a class on Islam. Carl is an expert in the field of Muslim relations and has spent years overseas in various countries. He acts as a catalyst for a number of current movements in the Middle East to promote peace-making, as well as cultural, political and religious dialog leading toward reconciliation. How does he accomplish this? He tells the story of Jesus to people.

One thing Carl mentioned is that he has never met anyone that says they hate Jesus, they just hate Christians and our judgmental nature. The harvest is ripe now (John 4:36), but we overcomplicate that by being fearful of Arab countries. Hardly any missionaries go because of our worldview of Muslims as dangerous people. Satan is our one true enemy, not Muslims. We are to love our enemies according to Jesus.

One of the ways we can learn to tell these stories is through TOAG. TOAG is an organization that uses ordinary people like you and I and helps train them to tell the stories of Jesus (Acts 4:13). They help these interns interact with people who don’t know Christ by talking about him and who he is. TOAG interns learn values, goals, and skills needed to bring the blessings of God’s Kingdom wherever God leads them next. The hope and fruit is to see Jesus movements all over the world.

The TOAG program does intrigue me. I am stilling praying for direction from God for all these doors he keeps opening for me. I would like explore more this heart for Muslims that God has given me. Below is a short video of Carl Medeiras and his heart to talk about Jesus.

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