Sahara Challenge is an important training opportunity for anyone wanting to go deeper in their understanding of how to better minister to Muslims. It is Crescent Project's top tier training event and because of Covid-19 will this year be offered online for the first time ever, making it more accessible than ever before.
Included in the Online Event:
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.
* Information taken from the Crescent Project website.
Laylat al-Qadr - the night of power - is the night during the month of Ramada that Muslims celebrate the receiving of the first of the Quranic revelations by Mohamed. For Muslims it is a sacred night, perhaps the most sacred night in the Islamic calendar and is a night spent on tasks such as prayer, reciting the Quran and spending as much time as possible at their local mosque.
It is believed that worship and prayer on this night is more valuable than one thousand other nights of worship and prayer. It is a night when the hearts and minds of Muslims all across the world are focused on one thing: trying to please God. And it is a night that we as followers of Christ can gather around our Lord's throne of grace, asking God to make Jesus known to Muslims all across the world.
This year, Laylat al-Qadr falls on Tuesday, May 19th.
Will you set aside time this year to take action? Will you do one thing to join God in His global purpose to see Muslims worshiping Him?
WILL YOU LEARN MORE?
Stop by the Prayercast page, watch the prayercast video and read more about the Night of Power.
WILL YOU PRAY?
Will you set aside time on Tuesday, May 19th to pray for your Muslim friends and Muslims in general.
Pray that on this night:
WILL YOU FAST?
Consider fasting on Tuesday May 19th as you pray. Skip meals from sun up until sun down. Fast for 24 hours or more. Maybe fast from media or your smartphone. Give something up as a way to focus your prayers during this day.
Will you do something this year to join God as he calls Muslims to himself?
For most of my life I’ve wanted to improve my prayer life. Having read the biographies of many great men and women of God and observing the Biblical examples from Jesus to Moses to the apostles, I’ve always known that prayer was an important part of the life of the disciple of Jesus. And for most of my life, I’ve not lived up to my own desires to pray more.
The reality is that my knowledge of the importance of prayer has not yet led to a default toward prayer. But I want it to.
Curtis Sergeant introduced me to a helpful tool to improve my prayer life, helping me to pray for one hour at a time. I don’t use it often enough but because it is a helpful tool, I’ll be adding it to the Everywhere to Everywhere resource page. The resource is called The Prayer Wheel and it is a part of the Zume Free Online Training.
The prayer wheel allows you to pray in five minute increments for one hour. You will need some sort of timing device (Zume Timer) that you can set to let you know when five minutes is up so you can move on to the next section for prayer.
THE BASIC PRAYER WHEEL OUTLINE
I have created a simple bookmark so that you can carry the prayer wheel with you where ever you go. Set aside an hour and spend it in prayer with the Prayer Wheel as your guide.
Download the Prayer Wheel Bookmark
I hope that you will find the prayer wheel a helpful tool for increasing your prayer life and your ability to hear from the Holy Spirit. It has been in many ways a helpful training tool for me but it will only help you if you try it out and apply it.
Learn more about the Prayer Wheel from others:
Did Jesus give the Apostle Paul a strategy for reaching the nations?
Yes, he did and it is a strategy for our day as well.
Steve Addison often quips that we need to stop asking 'What would Jesus do?' and start asking another question:
What did Jesus do?
Luke 10:1-23 offers us a window into one of the things Jesus did and it is a window into both his methods of discipling his followers as well as a strategy he uses to reach into new areas with the gospel.
It is a strategy that the Apostle Paul employs throughout his ministry and is especially visible on his second missionary journey as recorded in Acts chapters 16 - 18. This is of course not the only strategy that Jesus gives his followers nor is it the only strategy for reaching into new harvest fields that the Apostle Paul uses, but within Luke 10 are a number of examples and principles that we, like Paul, would do well to pay attention to and at the very least, try out. They are not the way we in the west usually go about things but they are the way that Jesus taught his first followers to take the gospel into new regions. Let's look at a few of the examples and principles from Luke 10.
Pray for Harvesters
In Luke 10:2 Jesus tells the 72 to pray for more workers. This is interesting because as sent ones, they are the workers. The implication seems to be that there are workers in the harvest! As Paul worked through Macedonia and Greece, the leaders of all of the churches that emerge in Acts 16 - 18 are new believers who came out of the harvest. Paul did not lead these churches. There is no mention of him even planting churches. Paul made disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) and churches emerged as new disciples were raised up and began to share the gospel and make disciples.
Find the Person of Peace
Jesus instructs the 72 to find a peaceful person, someone who welcomes them into their home. He gives them further instruction that, if a peaceful person cannot be found, they should brush the dust off of their feet and move on. It seems that there will be a God prepared person who welcomes them, or their won't be. The presence of that person or lack their of is out of their hands. It is a work of the Father who draws people to Jesus. Paul trusts Jesus' strategy.
For Paul it looks like this: Enter a new town or context. Find the place where people gather - usually a synagogue. Preach the Gospel. Get kicked out. Discover that there are a handful of people who want to follow Jesus.
When Paul proclaims the gospel there are always three responses as clearly articulated in Athens in Acts 17:32-33.
When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed.
Paul knew that there would be three response:
Stay with the Person of Peace
As part of Jesus' instructions, he also tells the 72 to not move around from house to house but rather to stay with the person of peace. Jesus does not tell us why we should stay, but in the example of Paul we see the fruit of staying in place.
Paul is not the local who will establish the movement in each town. The local person - the cultural insider - will be the one to stay. Lydia, the Philippian Jailer, Jason in Thessalonica, the elders in Berea, Dionysius and Damaris in Athens, Aquilla and Priscilla in Corinth as well as Crispus the synagogue ruler and his entire household! These are the people who become the leaders of the gospel movements in each of their respective regions. Paul has stayed with them, he's shared meals with them and invested in raising them up to be disciples of Jesus! This is perhaps most clearly seen in Thessolonica where Paul spent just three Sabbaths [learn more].
Everywhere Paul goes he finds a person of peace, a God prepared person whom God is going to use to establish the local expression of faith. Paul has no plan to leave a “church planter” behind to lead the new church for a time. It seems that from the very beginning the plan is to have a new believer lead the church.
These are just three of the principles from Luke 10 that Paul applies as he works to obey Jesus and make disciples. A deeper study of the sending out of the 12 in Luke 9, Matthew 10 and Mark 6 would be be helpful to further compare how Paul took the example of Jesus and applied it to his efforts to take the gospel to the very ends of the earth.
If Jesus' example and the principles of Luke 10 were good enough for Paul, it seems we ought to at least look at these passages and explore what applying them to our current context might look like.
I remember growing up, my grandmother would tell stories of the waning days of the Great Depression and the first years of World War II. I was captivated by the way she and the whole country seemed to respond to the crisis of war and depression. She told stories not only of the young men who willingly signed up to defend freedom but also of the ways those who stayed behind stepped up to serve, sacrificially rationing and growing gardens and doing anything they could to support the war effort. Those stories left a longing in me to live a purposeful life of sacrifice and meaning.
The Covid-19 pandemic is our crisis. For many of us, we are looking for purposeful ways to respond. Somehow, “stay at home and watch Netflix” just doesn’t seem all that meaningful, even though we know it is the best thing to do (at least the stay at home part).
As followers of Christ then, what are the ways we can respond that are meaningful and in partnership with the mission of God. Nearly six billion people in our world do not yet call themselves Christians and over two billion don’t even have access to an opportunity to hear the gospel. Here are five different ways you can be a part of God’s global mission, even as you stay at home.
As the global pause button continues to be depressed, take the extra time you have to learn more about God’s mission and how you can be a part of it. Here are several ideas:
Isolation and loneliness are real issues in a time of pandemic. I trust you are already doing your part to discover creative ways to encourage those in your neighborhood, your church family and your immediate family. But missionaries and our global brothers and sisters in Christ are also isolated in times like these. Here are a few ideas for encouraging them.
Too often, followers of Jesus underestimate the power of prayer. It seems that in the pandemic and the forced slowing of life, prayer would be the greatest response would could give to the Lord. Here are a number of resources to help you pray more.
Mission trips have been canceled, missionaries have had to return from the field and stay at home orders abound across the globe and yet the opportunity to go into the Muslim world has never been greater. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, more people on every continent are home bound than ever in world history. They are isolated, alone, and wondering what tomorrow will hold. Hundreds of thousands of young Muslim men and women who speak English are also sheltering in their homes, smartphone in hand, surfing the Internet in search of answers, hope and friendship.
What if they met you?
Volunteer with Embassy and they will teach you how to connect online with Muslims in difficult to access nations. You will almost certainly be the first follower of Jesus they have ever met.
Sign up for a free one hour introductory training or stop by the Embassy website to learn more.
We live in a media saturated world. Messages come fast and furious from every device we own and many are wondering if we can trust any of the news we hear. How do we filter through all the nose?
The reality is that we are all being discipled - being formed - by the messages that dominate our days. Because of this it is imperative that we shut off the noise and immerse ourselves in the word of God. As we do this, the word of God will increasingly become the filter through which all other messages have to pass.
If the dominant source of messages in our day is our favorite right leaning or left leaning news outlet, it will become the filter, even filtering the way we read the Bible.
Nobody is making you listen to the news or keep scrolling through your Facebook feed. Nobody is forcing you to not read your Bible. It’s a choice we all have to make. We have an opportunity to filter what we read, hear and see.
As we do that and as we prayerfully seek God’s direction each day we will find the things we can do in this season of global pandemic and God will use us in his global purposes.
"What can I do?"
It's a question that Jesus' disciples all across the world are wrestling with during these unprecedented times. Covid-19 has locked us indoors and it seems the best way to love others is to stay away from them. These are indeed strange days.
For many, you've spent the last years investing in the lives of friends who do not yet follow Jesus. You love them dearly. You've served them tirelessly and now, you can't see them.
And so we ask, "Lord, what can I do?"
For many the last years have been spent doing things for God. We serve the church. We help with programs. We feed the poor. We go to this event and that activity. We lead Bible study. We do, do, do.
And so when the world comes to a halt, we ask, "Lord, what can I do?"
For myself, this has been a journey into a lesson the Holy Spirit has been trying to teach me for the last few years. I'm a slow learner! I am by nature, a doer. Perhaps we all are. But in this moment, when "doing" has been in many ways stripped away, I've found myself wandering, wondering, worrying.
Am I doing enough? Am I doing the right things? And who am I?
The first week in particular was tough. I'd wander in and out of a sort of discombobulated haze, not knowing up from down, not knowing what I'd do with myself once I finished the next email I was writing or the call I was on. My "doer" was being battered and I didn't know what to . . . well, do.
In it all I could hear the whisper of God in the distance, an inviting calm that, as the days wore on and my chaos subsided, I began to listen to and to recognize.
Be my child.
Be my friend.
Be a member of my church.
Be a citizen of heaven.
Be my workmanship.
Be my new creation.
Be justified and righteous.
Be secure in my hand.
Be free from condemnation.
Be with Me. Be with Me. Be with Me.
How are you finding ways to simply be with Jesus this week?
The book of Exodus begins with unimaginable hardship. Pharaoh, fearing the growing number of Hebrews in his kingdom, orders the execution of every newborn Hebrew boy.
Babies are torn from their mother's arms and tossed murderously into the Nile River.
And then Moses is born.
Like many others, his mother hides him away for as long as she can, hushing his cries, hoping beyond hope for a way through this holocaust of the newborns. The Bible doesn't say why she does it, but his mother builds a little basket, coats it with tar and then sends her daughter off to the river with baby Moses in his tiny ark.
I can imagine the scene. The sister comes to a bank along the river where the reeds have grown thick. She steps into the water, feet sinking in mud and begins pushing her way through the razor sharp stems. She fights to keep her balance as the stench of the river mud floats up around her. Finally she comes to a place where the reeds thin out. They've been cleared away so that the pharaoh's daughter can come down and bath. The sister sets the basket gently in the water where it floats, still hemmed in by the reeds but clearly visible to anyone who might come down to the water. She backs away, far enough not to be noticed yet still able to keep an eye on her brother.
Exodus 2:4 says, "His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him."
There she stands in the muck and mud, scratched by reeds, swatting flies and mosquitoes. She waits and she watches, hoping to see in the water the ripples of redemption. Exodus 2:4 is filled with expectation. Surely something will happen. Surely God will act.
And God does act. He saves Moses and sets the stage for the freeing of the Hebrew slaves.
Many of us find ourselves in the muck and mud of our present moment. We're battered and bruised by the Covid-19 pandemic. We look around and it seems the bad news grows daily. Some of us have experienced the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of a dream. Everyone it seems will experience some sort of loss.
While we need to mourn with those who mourn in this season, as followers of Christ we can also look expectantly for the ripples of redemption. Our God is a redeemer God. The next few months may not be easy. They may be the hardest times we have ever lived through, but if we look to the scriptures we see a pattern: God uses hard times to set the stage for unimaginable good.
Joseph is thrown into a pit, sold into slavery and tossed in a dungeon. All before God rescues him and uses him to save the whole world from famine.
Stephen is brutally murdered, stoned in the public square. And yet the very next moment, as his friends mourn his loss, he is with the risen Christ in heaven. As persecution breaks out, the good news of Jesus, the gospel, begins to spread all across the Roman world as fleeing Christians share about Jesus everywhere they go.
God is a redeemer.
Whether our current calamities are caused by God's discipline, Satan's attack or are merely the by products of a broken world, God can and will redeem it for our good and for His glory.
And so as we look to him, as we hope in Him, as we trust in Him, we will see the ripples of redemption.
It seems crazy to think that just two weeks ago life was relatively normal. Now, it seems that everything has changed.
There is a lot of uncertainty and if you’re like me, you’re still not entirely sure what is going on. There is a lot that we are all going through and a lot that we all need encouragement in right now, but with this letter I want to encourage you to do one thing: lead on Sunday morning in your home.
Covid-19 is and will continue to be disruptive and hard. But in every difficulty there is opportunity. God meant it when he had Paul pen the words of Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
The reality of “church at home” is probably going to be a reality for the foreseeable future. Our church leaders and pastors are doing a great job creating online content that can help us through this time.
And while it's good to sit down in front of the TV or computer screen and watch and listen as a family, there is an amazing opportunity to step up and lead your family in being the church, in actively doing church at home.
Jesus told us that “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Gather your family in the name of Jesus. Lead them in prayer and worship and in fellowship. This is an opportunity to teach your children to seek the face of Jesus, to model for them prayer and worship and what it looks like to be a man of God who looks to actively apply the teachings of Jesus. Help them learn to actively apply the teaching of Jesus in their lives.
There is a simple format that can be followed that will help you lead your family. Divide your Sunday morning as a family into three thirds.
CARE: The first third of your time can be focused on caring for one another and worship. Start by praying for your time together and then ask two simple questions and allow everyone to share about how their week went.
After everyone has shared, invite your wife and kids to join you in praising God for the things that are going well and to pray for one another about the needs that were expressed.
WORSHIP: Lead your family into a time of worship. Some of us are musically gifted, but for the rest of us this may mean asking your kids what their favorite worship songs are and finding them on Youtube to listen to or sing along with. It may be an opportunity to read some of the Psalms together.
Regardless of what this looks like at your home, have fun worshiping the Lord together. If you have young kids, let them beat spoons on a pan or dance as they worship.
CAST VISION: Is there a verse that has been particularly meaningful to you this week? Is there an area you are hoping you and your family can grow in? Take a moment to cast some vision for the things that God is putting on your heart for your family. Share a verse from the Bible to encourage your family in the way you know they need to be encouraged.
The second third of your time together can be spent looking into the word of God together. Acts 2:42 paints a picture of the early church saying "that they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." This is the time to learn from the word of God.
This would be a great time to tune into your church’s online service to listen together to your pastor’s message for the week.
You could also use the SWORD method to lead your family in discovery Bible study, helping teach your kids how to dig into God’s word for themselves. Together you will learn what Jesus has for each of you in a particular passage of scripture. [learn about discovery Bible study]
Regardless, this second third is a time to dedicate to studying the Bible.
The final third of your time together should be spent looking ahead to the week to come. It is a time to plan together how you can apply what you’ve learned and be a blessing to others in the coming week. A few simple questions for this time are:
After you have discussed these as a family, ask your kids to hold you accountable to actually do the things you’ve said you would do.
End your time together by praying for your family. Then enjoy a great meal together!
Covid-19 is going to be a life changing event for all of us. But as fathers we have an opportunity to step in and lead our families into a deeper place of faith and following.
Imagine if our kids look back at this time and remember most of all that their dad led them closer to Jesus!
May it be!
Covid-19 is an unprecedented world event that is unlike anything anyone now living has ever seen.
It has interrupted life. It has caused hardship. And if the Surgeon General is correct, it's going to get worse. As followers of Jesus there is much that we can and will do in the coming weeks and perhaps months to be His hands and feet, to demonstrate His love, to share the truth and hope of the Gospel.
But the most important thing we can do, is to abide in him.
Last week I sent an email out to a number of pastor friends asking if there were any specific ways I could be praying. As responses came in it became increasingly apparent that these leaders were stepping into uncharted waters. Life was getting crazy as they tried to figure out what to do about Sunday morning services, how to shepherd well despite social distancing and how to care for their own families.
And of course it's not just pastors. Everyone is struggling to make heads or tails of our current situation. Across the globe the Coronavirus is wreaking havoc.
And so more than ever before, as the people of God we must turn to Jesus for guidance and help, and according to Jesus in John 15, we have only two choices:
And so with today's article we want to share a three resources that we have found helpful to help disciples abide in Christ.
Cornerstone Reading Plan: Any reading plan will do as long as it gets you reading the word of God. This particular plan will have you read four chapters a day and allow you to immerse yourself in the whole story of the Bible.
S.O.A.P.S Bible Reading: As you are reading the Bible, the S.O.A.P.S reading tool will help you to interact with the word, obey it and share with others.
Prayer Wheel: The prayer wheel will give you a process to pray for one hour, five minutes at a time, prayerfully interacting with God in a number of ways. This particular resource is a pdf with three bookmarks so be sure and share it with a couple of friends as well.
There are many helpful resources to help us abide in Christ. But above any particular resource, we must follow the example of Jesus who often withdrew to lonely places to be with the Father.
A few weeks after our last conversation, I returned to Ahmed’s store to say hello, grab some more Kenyan tea and see what God had in store for our next interaction. Sometimes we just chit chat but increasingly, Ahmed was turning our conversations to the major stumbling blocks to faith that most Muslims face.
After our customary greetings and small talk, Ahmed again looked thoughtful. “You know what, I saw a movie the other day. Some guy was giving them out at the park and I took it home. I watched most of it. It was called 'The Passion'.”
I wasn’t sure what he would think of the movie so I asked, “What did you think of the movie?”
He smiled, “Oh it was a really interesting movie. Jesus’ life is very compelling. He lived such a beautiful life. I really love Jesus.”
He really loved Jesus? I’d not heard Ahmed talk quite so openly about Jesus before. “Wow. It’s really great to hear you say that. It sounds like you are beginning to understand why Jesus is so important to me.” I replied.
Ali looked a little surprised. “Well, I’ve always known he is important. He lived a perfect life. He did miracles. And he will come back on the last day. Jesus is one of God’s greatest prophets.” He paused then and took a deep breath as if he were about to tell me some really bad news. “It’s just that the movie got a few things wrong.”
I didn’t know exactly where he was going so I said, “Hmmm. Like what?” It was the best I could do at the time but it was enough to give Ahmed the floor. He would tell me what.
“Well, to start with, Jesus did not die on the cross. God would never allow his prophet to be treated that way. According to the Quran, God caused someone else, most likely Judas, to look like Jesus and die instead of him. Jesus was taken up to heaven without dying. Sura 4:157 says, “That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:” So you see my friend, Jesus did not die on the cross.”
How would you respond to Ahmed?
The Muslim Perspective
The Quran teaches pretty clearly that Jesus did not die on the cross, but that another was crucified in his place and that Jesus was then taken directly up to heaven. Within Islam there are a number of theories about who was placed on the cross in Christs place. These include Peter, Judas, a Roman soldier, a Jewish bystander and in some minority opinions, the swoon theory is accepted. Most Muslims believe that the prophets of God in the Koran must win and be victorious. Muhammad defeated the enemies of Islam and destroyed the idols in the Ka’ba. So Jesus could not have been subjected to beating, humiliation and death.
Like the post we shared last week and the week before, I’ll share a few helpful thoughts and then allow some of the experts in this to take over the heavy lifting in the articles, books and talks shared below.
A Few Thoughts
We don’t need to argue with our Muslim friends, but we can start by asking what I’ll call “Pebble Questions". A pebble question is a question that forces someone to consider something that will stick with them, like a pebble in their shoe. These create opportunities through which the Holy Spirit can begin to work.
You’ll find this pattern familiar, but a good place to start is with three responses. The three ways to respond are once again:
Here are three simple questions that will hopefully create a pebble in their thinking about the cross.
Theological Response: What glorifies God more? To help Jesus escape death or for Jesus to conquer death?
Logical Response: Would you be willing to die for something that you absolutely knew was a lie?
Historical Response: Have you ever read what historians in the first century wrote about the Crucifixion?
Unpacking The Questions
The theological response challenges our Muslim friends' belief that God is great. Saving Jesus through trickery doesn’t give glory to God or show his power nearly as much as stepping into the teeth of death and defeating it.
The logical response forces our Muslim friends to see the Biblical story in light of human nature. Human nature is bent toward self-preservation. It is one thing to die for something you absolutely believe in. ISIS and Al Qaeda suicide bombers do that. But if the Quranic story is true, then the disciples and hundreds of others who claimed that Jesus was raised from the dead would have all known with absolute certainty that the resurrection was a lie. Human nature is bent toward self-preservation and yet they all willingly died violent deaths to perpetuate that lie. Maybe one person would do this. There is no logical way that the story of the resurrection would have been sustained in the heat of such intense persecution and murder if the early followers of Jesus all knew it to be a lie.
The historical response allows us the opportunity to invite our Muslim friends to simple explore what the historical record says. Non-Christian sources like Tacitus and Josephus speak of the crucifixion. The historical record of the Crucifixion is so strong that even Reza Aslan, an Iranian Muslim and author of the book Zealot, agrees that one thing we can know for sure about Jesus is that he was killed by the Romans.
We'll end this article with the same few paragraphs that we ended with last week. The first and last thing we should do as we discuss the Crucifixion and resurrection with our Muslim friends is to pray and fast. Intellectual assent is rarely enough for a journey to faith. "No one comes to Jesus but that the Father who sent him draws them (John 6:44)." Salvation is always a work of the Holy Spirit.
Remember, "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4)."
We must pray that the blinders be removed!
As a final word, "honor Christ the Lord in your hearts as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:5-6).
Our Muslim friends are people. They are not arguments to be defeated. They are people to be loved and the Father is drawing them to himself.
The following articles, videos and books are resources I've found helpful as I prepare to give a reason for believing in the Crucifixion, and the resurrection of Christ.
The E2E Community