Posted on March 7th, 2014 by Paul
- “Friday Prayers”
Pillar 2: Salat (Prayers)
What is Salat?
Five times a day the muezzin calls from the minaret of mosques all around the world to call Muslims to prayer. The Muslim call to prayer (adhan) is perhaps the most recognizable sound throughout the Muslim world. Muslims are expected to pray 5 times per day. Each of the 5 prayer times have a name and specific time of the day in which they are to be performed. Fajr is between dawn and sunrise, Zuhr is between midday and mid-afternoon, Asr is between mid-afternoon and sunset, Maghrib is just after sunset, and Isha is between nightfall and dawn. Muslims are expected to pray during these times each day either corporately in a mosque or individually at home or at work.
One of the unique characteristics of Islamic prayer is that those praying are expected to turn and face the city of Mecca. Mecca is in modern day Saudi Arabia and known as the holiest place in Islam. Muslims all around the world are expected to turn wherever they are (even in an airplane which can be interesting) 5 times per day and face Mecca when they pray. Before they pray, Muslims must ritually cleanse their hands, arms to the elbows, face, head, ears, nose, and feet to the ankles with water. This ritual cleansing process is known as wudu. Being outwardly clean before God is an essential part of Islamic prayer.
As they pray, Muslims assume special prayer positions throughout the prayer. The following steps are involved in a Muslim prayer:
- Raise their hands and say in Arabic, “God is great.”
- Fold their hands and quote the opening of the Qur’an.
- Bend over three times and says three times in Arabic, “Glorify the name of God most great.”
- Stands with hands to their side and says once in Arabic, “Give thanks to God.”
- On their knees they touch the prayer rug while saying five times in Arabic, “Glorify the name of God most high.”
- They sit up.
- They bow down again and repeat step 5.
- They stand and prepare to repeat the steps a second time.
- They turn their head to the left and to the right. These steps end the series of prayers each time.
What is the significance of Salat for Muslims in Turkey?
Most sources estimate that more than 96% of the people in Turkey follow the religion of Islam. The challenge is that the level of devotion varies significantly from region to region, city to city, and person to person. Pew Religion Research suggests that 27% of the Muslims in Turkey actually pray five times per day. 15% of Muslims in Turkey claim to pray several times per day, but not all five. Based on this research and my own personal experience in Turkey, it is safe to say that Muslims are practicing the prayers, but perhaps not as often as one might think. Again, this varies from person to person, but while many of the confessing Muslims in Turkey know the process and content of the prayers, chances are that they are not performing it as much as they might claim. Five times a day, the call to prayer sounds out from the minaret in cities all across Turkey, but the question is . . . do Muslims believe they are actually communing with God when they pray or are they simply going through the motions of religion?
Hear the Muslim Call to Prayer below:
This is part 2 of a 5 part series on the 5 Pillars of Islam. Check out part 1 here, and be on the lookout for the other parts over the next week.
Posted on March 6th, 2014 by Eric Parker
The religious consensus across our culture has dwindled so much that you would be hard pressed to find anything that a pluralistic society might agree upon. Even still, if someone is religious, then love is bound to be one of their core values. Some might even go as far as to flip the famous axiom “God is love” to say that “Love is God.” This reversal can be a dangerous error. Listen to what A. W. Tozer has to say,
The apostle John, by the Spirit, wrote, “God is love,” and some have taken his words to be a definitive statement concerning the essential nature of God. This is a great error. John was by those words stating a fact, but he was not offering a definition.
Had the apostle declared that love is what God is, we would be forced to infer that God is what love is. If literally God is love, then literally love is God, and we are in all duty bound to worship love as the only God there is. If love is equal to God then God is only equal to love, and God and love are identical. Thus we destroy the concept of personality in God and deny outright all His attributes save one, and that one we substitute for God. The God we have left is not the God of Israel; He is not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; He is not the God of the prophets and the apostles; He is not the God of the saints and reformers and martyrs, nor yet the God of the theologians and hymnists of the church.
For our souls’ sake we must learn to understand the Scriptures. We must escape the slavery of words and give loyal adherence to meanings instead. Words should express ideas, not originate them. We say that God is love; we say that God is light; we say that Christ is truth; and we mean the words to be understood in much the same way that words are understood when we say of a man, “he is kindness itself.” By so saying we are not stating that Kindness and the man are identical, and no one understand our words in that sense.
The words “God is love” mean that love is an essential attribute of God. Love is something true of God but it is not God. It expresses the way God is in His unitary being, as do the words holiness, justice, faithfulness and truth. Because God is immutable. He always acts like Himself, and because He is a unity He never suspends one of His attributes in order to exercise another.
A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 97-98
Posted on March 6th, 2014 by Jonathan
Belgium recently made child euthanasia legal. North Korea daily commits crimes against humanity. The United States preforms 1.6 million abortions each year. Each year, 2 million children are victims of sex trafficking. About 59% of Americans now support (so-called) gay marriage, while lawmakers and the general public are becoming more and more intolerant of those who don’t celebrate it. The current state of affairs makes it easy to be given over to anger or despair.
Emotions are a natural part of our response to these things. If you’re like me though, the anger and zeal you feel is often less like that of Jesus driving the money-changers out of the temple and more like that of a political talk show host. So to help us both out, here are a few things to keep in mind as we respond to the evil in this world.
- Be humble - “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph 2:1-3). Without the gospel reality of Ephesians 2:4-10, we would be no different than everyone else.
- Demonstrate love - “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1). Winning arguments is useless without love.
- Don’t be surprised – Even after witnessing miracles firsthand, religious leaders defiantly schemed with one another to bring Jesus down. Then, upon hearing about his resurrection from the guards at the tomb, “when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, ‘Tell people, “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble’” (Matt 28:12-14). This is the sad state of human hearts before God.
- Show compassion – “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36). We ought to mourn over the lostness of our neighbors, and then lovingly address the needs of their sinful hearts, not just the sinful actions it breeds.
- Don’t take it personally - “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Ex 45:5). Because of his faith in God’s sovereign plan, Joseph was able to let go of bitterness against his brothers. In the same vein, sin is never ultimately against us, but the Lord (Ps 51:4, Rm 3:23).
- Believe in God’s promises – “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rm 12:19). Nobody’s getting away with anything. All sins will be paid for, either by the sinner in eternity or by Christ on the cross. On top of that, “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13).
Posted on March 5th, 2014 by Paul
Pillar 1: Shahada (The Witness)
What is the Shahada?
“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” This confession is the first thing whispered into the ear of a newborn Muslim baby and the last thing heard and spoken at death. This basic confession defines what it means to be Muslim. These words set Islam apart from the other monotheistic religions: Christianity and Judaism. If one desires to be Muslim, the starting point is a sincere confession of the Shahada.
At its core, Islam is a religion that demands devotion to one God, Allah. The Arabic word for God is “Allah.” The word Allah was used in reference to God in Arab culture since before the birth of Muhammad in 570 AD. The Shahada begins with God. It assumes that there is one God who created all things and sustains all things. Muslims around the world strive to live a life of submission and surrender to this one God, Allah.
According to Islam, Allah sent humanity many prophets to lead them towards God. The final prophet he sent was Muhammad. Muhammad, though he was human, served as a role model and messenger from God. In their daily lives, Muslims are to emulate and follow the example set by Muhammad while he lived on the earth. The explicit mention of Muhammad as the “messenger of Allah” in the Shahada stands again in contrast to both Christianity and Judaism, who do not recognize Muhammad as a prophet sent from God.
For Muslims, the Shahada serves as a guide to life. It encapsulates both belief in Allah as the one true God and also points Muslims to Muhammad as the definitive example of what it means to be submit and surrender to God. The Shahada is a statement of both faith and practice and serves as the foundational statement for the 1.2 billion Muslims around the world.
What is the significance of the Shahada for Muslims in Turkey?
For many Muslims in Turkey today, the Shahada functions merely as a traditional saying that brings order and structure to Turkish society. The day-to-day implications of the Shahada are minimal for many Muslims in Turkey. Having been to Turkey several times the past few years, I am always surprised by the indifference expressed by Muslims towards Islam. Operation World estimates that Turkey is over 96% Muslim. In fact, the Turks proudly say that “to be Turk is to be Muslim.” Yet, in reality, when it comes to Islam as a whole and the confession of the Shahada in particular, there might be a lot of intellectual ascent, but little heart felt devotion to God, Muhammad, and this confessional statement.
This is part 1 of a 5 part series on the 5 Pillars of Islam. Be sure to check back here for the other parts over the next 2 weeks.
Posted on March 4th, 2014 by David Burnette
We don’t usually think about busyness as a spiritual issue, but as pastor and author Kevin DeYoung reminds us in his latest book, Crazy Busy, we need to stop and consider what is for many believers today a massive problem.
Kevin is a pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. He has authored several books and his blog over at TGC - “DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed” – is worth visiting regularly.
The fact that busyness affects how we follow Jesus on an everyday basis makes it extremely relevant to our upcoming Secret Church 14, “The Cross and Everyday Life.” That’s another reason we’re glad Pastor Kevin was willing to answer the following questions on this important topic.
1. How can someone determine whether their level of busyness is normal or an indication of a deeper problem?
Busyness itself is not the problem. God made Adam to labor in the Garden and He made it good. We have been created for good works, which means we have work to do. Any Christian who cares about people will seek to bear the burdens of others. Clearly, inactivity is not the goal of godliness.
Having said all that, obviously some busyness is problematic. We all know and feel that—some of us every day. To determine what is healthy busyness and what is not, I’d start by looking for sin’s symptoms. Am I losing my patience more than I used to? Do I find myself easily angered? Have I lost the joy of my salvation? Then I would take a look at the patterns in my life. Am I taking a regular Sabbath? Do I have habits of feasting and fasting, work and rest, leisure and labor? Do I seem to be working all the time and actually getting less done? Finally, I try to ask myself this simple diagnostic question: am I trying to do good to others or look good before others? If we’re honest, so much of our busyness is about people-pleasing, pride, and positioning ourselves for earthly applause.
2. How is our busyness, or at least our feeling of busyness, a gospel issue?
It could be a gospel issue in a number of ways. If busyness chokes out the seed of God’s word (like in the parable of the sower and the soils), that’s a gospel issue. If busyness is a convenient way to cover up the rot in my own soul—or make me forget that I even have a soul—that’s a gospel issue. If I am trying to do everything for God to such an extent that I don’t find any joy in God, that’s a gospel issue. And perhaps most seriously, busyness is a gospel issue when I keep running at breakneck speed just to prove myself to my parents, prove myself to the world, or prove myself to God. If we can’t come to Christ, take his light and easy yoke upon us and rest in him, then we haven’t understood the gospel at all.
3. In your book Crazy Busy you mention one thing busy people (and all people) must do. Can you summarize that one thing?
The one thing we must do is sit at the feet of Jesus. I know that sounds super-spiritual, or worse, like one more thing to do. But it’s the point of Jesus’ interaction with Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Martha is trying to be a great host, but all her preparations matter for nothing if she neglects the Host in our midst. Jesus gently rebukes Martha for being frazzled and bothered by lesser things, when Mary has chosen the better part, namely, to listen to Jesus and learn from him. It’s not a silver bullet, but I really believe if we could make it a priority to take an hour each day, or 20 minutes, or a regular five minutes to slowly read the Bible and pray, we would begin to see Spirit-prompted changes. It’s no accident that Luke was inspired to put the Mary-Martha story at the end of chapter 10, after the sending out of the 72 disciples for powerful ministry and after the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s the Lord’s way of telling us: look, you can cast out demons, you can preach, you can heal, you can stop by the side of the road to help the sick and dying, but if you don’t spend time with me, you are neglecting the very thing I want most from you: to sit at my feet.
Posted on March 3rd, 2014 by David Burnette
Matt Mason shares the following thoughts over at TGC Worship on the job description of a worship pastor:
” … if you are a worship pastor, I want to remind you of something that I hope you feel deeply. It is an unspeakable joy and privilege to serve as a pastor. The key term in the title “worship pastor,” is pastor. In many ways, I would rather be called “one of the pastors at The Church at Brook Hills,” than the “Worship Pastor of The Church at Brook Hills,” because the latter reminds me of my primary job description.
This is not to imply that worship pastors should pretend that music is not a big part of what we do. It certainly is. But, when we read about gathered praise in the New Testament, we don’t find detailed instructions on matters related to music. Band or acapella? Choir or no choir? How many songs? Nothing there. Those decisions are to be pursued through prayerful discussion with the elder-pastors and implemented in the hopes of edifying your particular local church.
If these are matters of prayerful discretion and pastoral discernment, then, what are the things that God has said are my primary, non-negotiable assignments as a worship pastor?
Enter 2 Timothy. With a cursory look at 2 Timothy, we see implications for the worship pastor in many places. While not directed as a defense of the role of the worship pastor, much can be learned from this pastoral epistle. As we consider our roles as those who serve as singing shepherds, may we consider from His word our role in the body of Christ.
The Worship Pastor’s Role
May God help us to say and live out these kinds of pastoral commitments before the people we have the privilege to serve. As worship pastors, by the grace of God, we commit:
To serve under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. To be “good news” pastors—making much of the promises, grace, mercy, and peace which come from God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 1:1-2)
To pray for you constantly. (2 Timothy 1:3-4)
To render honor to believers who have come before us, on whose shoulders we stand, and to make much of the ministry investments that are being made in less visible places—reminding you (and ourselves) that the size of the platform is not the measure of one’s ministry. (2 Timothy 1:5)
To prioritize the multiplication of ministry—encouraging you and others to a full expression of your God-given gifts. (2 Timothy 1:6)
To center our songs, exhortations, and ministry on the gospel. To faithfully uphold the truth of Scripture, with particular emphasis on teaching that produces/increases faith and love for Jesus. (2 Timothy 1:8-14)
For the full article, go here.
Posted on March 3rd, 2014 by David Burnette
Pastor and author J.D. Payne has just released a free ebook titled Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Places. You might just be shocked to learn about the number of unreached peoples and least reached places right here in America.
Here’s J.D.’s description of this new resource taken from his own blog, “Missiologically Thinking“:
It’s brief, about fifty pages. That is intentional. You can read it quickly.
The pastors with The Church at Brook Hills are always asking how we can best equip our faith family for the work of the ministry (Eph 4:11-12). Part of shepherding others to reach the nations requires painting a picture of the realities of lostness. Therefore, I wrote this short ebook for our people.
Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Places is written to cast a vision of reality in the United States, and to offer some practical steps to move us along in disciple making and church multiplication. We know much about lostness in other parts of the world; we know little about it in our backyard.
One of the convictions that we hold as a faith family is to give away many of our resources for Kingdom advancement. With this in mind, I am releasing this book to you. I pray that it will be a blessing to you and your ministry.
Download your copy.
If you do, tell others to get a copy. Spread the word, far and wide.
Take it. Give it away.
Use it for leading your church to the nations in this nation and beyond.
J. D. serves as the pastor for church multiplication with The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. Before moving to Birmingham, he served for ten years with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and as an Associate Professor of Church Planting and Evangelism in the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he directed the Center for North American Missions and Church Planting.
Posted on March 3rd, 2014 by David Burnette
Be sure and check out Verge’s 2014 Conference: Redeemed to Redeem. March 27-29. Austin, TX.
Go here for more on registration, speakers, and other information.
Posted on March 3rd, 2014 by David Burnette
How much does an unconverted person understand about spiritual matters? John Calvin offers a helpful analogy:
“They are like a traveler passing through a field at night who in a momentary lightning flash sees far and wide, but the sight vanishes so swiftly that he is plunged again into the darkness of the night before he can take even a step – let alone be directed on his way by its help.” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol I, 277)
Calvin is pushing back against the idea that we can come to know God through human reason without the illuminating, life-giving work of the Spirit. Unbelievers get glimpses of spiritual truth, but not enough to bring them to a saving knowledge of Christ. Calvin acknowledges that all men receive the general grace of God, which would include various gifts, skills, and intellectual abilities (275). However, with regard to spiritual matters, the greatest geniuses are “blinder than moles!” (277) As the apostle Paul put it, “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14).
Understanding the limitations of human reason is extremely important, even if you’re not fighting the same theological battles Calvin was in the sixteenth century. Consider four ways we are helped when we think rightly about this truth:
1. It teaches us to exalt God and not man.
Paul tells us in 1 Cor 1:18-31 that God has intentionally designed his plan of salvation so that human wisdom would be seen as shameful and foolish. No sinner could devise a way to be reconciled to this holy God. We will boast in the Lord and not in man when we recognize our complete inability to get to God on our own.
2. It produces humility and gratitude as think about our own salvation.
The fact that we understand and treasure the good news of Jesus Christ is no small matter. Realizing that we have received this miracle should produce humility, adoration, and thanksgiving. We certainly didn’t deserve to have our eyes opened to the gospel; in fact, we deserved to be left in the dark and to face God’s judgment. Gratefully, though, the same God who spoke light into existence at creation is the One who has illumined our dark hearts (2 Cor 4:6). No wonder Paul tells us over and over to rejoice.
3. It forces us to depend on the Spirit as we minister to others.
No spiritual fruit will come from our ministry (either privately or corporately in the church) without the Spirit’s power. We will have about as much success opening someone’s heart as we will opening a blind man’s eyes. Salvation is God’s work and our confidence should be in Him as we proclaim the truth. Though there are good philosophical and historical reasons for our faith, these are not sufficient (in and of themselves) to make someone a new creation.
4. It gives us compassion for others instead of contempt.
Instead of constantly getting frustrated and angry at those who don’t know Christ, we should pity them. This was Jesus’ reaction as He looked out on the shepherd-less crowds (Mk 6:34). We would likewise be wandering down the broad road were it not for God’s grace. Knowing this, we offer other beggars the same bread we have been given.
5. It keeps us from being shocked when our faith is rejected.
The gospel is folly to unbelievers, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we are ignored, slandered, mocked, or even persecuted. Jesus prepared His disciples for this (Jn 16:33), and Peter told us not to consider it “strange” (1 Pet 4:12). When we realize how unreasonable the gospel can sound to the unconverted, we are more likely to face rejection with a quiet but firm confidence in our God.
Posted on February 28th, 2014 by Jonathan
First Corinthians 10:31 encourages us to glorify God in whatever we do, but for many, seeing their daily tasks as holy endeavors doesn’t compute. Whether you feel like you’re stuck pushing paper or pushing a broom, it’s often tempting to view your job as a necessary evil that you must get through in order to reach 5 p.m. on Friday. Secret Church 14, “The Cross and Everyday Life,” will seek to address this and a host of other topics that often fall into the “unspiritual” category of our lives. Join us via simulcast this Good Friday, April 18th. In the meantime, be encouraged by a few workers who can testify to the power of the gospel in their everyday jobs.
The gospel changes the way I view myself, my work, and those around me. Knowing that I am a creation of an all-powerful God who appreciates beauty, order, and intricacy inspires me to be creative and innovative at my job. The gospel also helps me to see work as a blessing and a gift. I am free from any pressure to “out-perform” others, knowing that Christ has performed everything necessary to allow a restored relationship with God. So I now work and live from a place of joy and victory. It also informs the way I view my coworkers and neighbors. They are not just arbitrary acquaintances, but fellow souls needing to be reconciled to their Father.
I’m Justin and I am a singer-songwriter living in Birmingham, Alabama. I also work full time doing janitorial and maintenance work at my church. The gospel is central in both of my areas of work. I struggled with deep cynicism for several years and that struggle was mirrored in the songs that I would write. Thankfully, the Lord opened my eyes to the hope of the gospel. All things will be made right through Christ! This influences every song I write and gives me focus and purpose in my musical career. This hope carries over into my day job. As a janitor, I get to serve my church body in a beautiful way. The gospel has shown me that the least attractive profession on the planet is precious work in the sight of God and this, in turn, humbles me every time I step on stage to perform.
Singer/Songwriter and Janitor
The gospel gives me something more to work toward. Though not everyone notices, I work hard to be the best analyst I can be while producing the highest quality work I can produce so that God will be glorified by what I do in my cubicle from 8-5. I know that by His grace I am working toward more than a promotion or a bigger bonus, but rather I am working to advance the gospel in this office.
Fixed Income Research Analyst/Trader
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