Archive for the ‘Secret Church’ Category
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 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 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
Posted on February 26th, 2014 by Eric Parker
All throughout history, God has worked mightily through his Word. You need not go any further than Genesis 1 to see this in action. However, in today’s American evangelical context, God’s Word tends to be minimized for the sake of practicality. If you want to reach the crowds, if you want to have a good quiet time, if you want to grow your church or ministry, then the cry is usually, “We need more!” That is, we need more than what the Bible has to offer in order to meet with God.
But, when the Word of God is read or heard carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully, its logic and meaning have the power to transform us. And when this Word is proclaimed, its message may even produce something like a graphic image of the truth in our hearts and minds. It’s analogous to adding color to a black and white picture. The content of the picture has not changed, but the image has been deepened and sharpened to help the viewer see more vividly the reality it portrays.
In the video below from Session X of the CROSS student missions conference, pastor David recites Romans 1-8. This is a good example of the power of God’s Word proclaimed, even without explanation. You can access the entirety of the message, “Mobilizing God’s Army for the Great Commission,” by going here.
To learn more about the blessings of Scripture intake and Scripture memory, join us for Secret Church 14 “The Cross and Everyday Life.”
Posted on February 21st, 2014 by Eric Parker
How does the cross affect everyday life? This is the question driving the next Secret Church gathering. One of the ways in which the cross should affect our everyday lives is by compelling us to make the best use of the time. Paul gives us two ways to make the best use of the time: we are to endure and explain. What does Paul mean by this phrase? And what does this have to do with the cross?
The Cross Calls Us to Endure
Paul says that we should make the best use of the time by walking faithfully in the midst of the wickedness around us (Eph. 5:15-16). This exhortation comes at the end of a discussion where he contrasts people who live in “light” and those who live in the “dark.” We are to walk as “children of light” (Eph. 5:8) and flee from sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness/idolatry (Eph. 5:5), sins that are typical of those living in darkness (Eph. 5:11) . We should flee these things because the wrath of God is coming on those who practice them (Eph. 5:6).
The wrath of God is the reason why Paul says, “Look carefully then how you walk.” (Eph 5:15). It’s as if he is saying, “Not only have you have become children of light, but also the wrath of God is coming on those who live their daily lives in darkness doing evil deeds, so make sure that you pay attention to how you are walk.” The implied motivations for how we should live are twofold: 1) people of the light will not walk in darkness, and 2) people walking in darkness have the wrath of God being stored up against them.
This is were the cross comes to bear. The gospel says that we have a King from the domain of light who has taken the punishment of our rebellion upon himself, so that we might be liberated from the domain of darkness, cleared of all offenses, transferred to his kingdom of light, and elevated to a place of honor beside him. The wrath that was being stored up for those who are walking in darkness has been absorbed by the King himself for all who will turn and bow the knee in humble submission.
As we travel in this world waiting on the kingdom to come, the King’s sacrifice has purchased and sent to us a Helper for the journey (John 14:15-17). Because Jesus died on the cross, and because he has given us his Holy Spirit, we must and we can endure. We must make the best of the time by enduring because the days are evil. Paul understands that this world is filled with temptations, and that we as Christians are in the unique position of being exiles (Phil. 3:20) in the foreign land of darkness. If we have been delivered “from the domain of darkness and transferred…to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13), then there has been an identity change at the core of who we are so that our lives will reflect the place from which we come.
So in order to make the best use of the time, we must walk in wisdom. This means that we must watch how we are living so as to make sure that our lives are not characterized by the “unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11). This is how we endure.
The Cross Calls Us to Explain
The Cross doesn’t only call us to endure, but when you get to Paul’s other use of the phrase, we see that that the cross also calls us to explain. Paul says, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” (Col. 4:5). The call is similar to the Ephesians 5 passage above. Our walking in wisdom, however, is now clarified by the word “outsiders.”
In the previous verse, Paul asks the Colossians to pray for him to be able to share the gospel (Col. 4:3-4). Soon after he instructs the Colossians to be careful to let their speech always be reflective of the grace they have received (Col. 4:6). Right there in the middle of these two evangelistically-charged verses, Paul is calling them to make the best use of their time by explaining the truths of the gospel to those outside the faith.
Because Colossians 4 and Ephesians 5 share almost the exact same wording, I think Paul has much the same idea in mind in these passages. If you put the passages together, the thought goes something like this: live your lives in such a way that you endure in the midst of evil (Eph. 5:15-16), and when people ask about your peculiar way of life (Col. 4:5a), you can explain to or “answer each person” with the words of the gospel of the kingdom (Col. 4:6).
Our transference from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of his beloved Son calls us to endure and to explain. It’s not an either/or, but rather a both/and that should characterize our everyday lives.
Posted on February 19th, 2014 by Eric Parker
Pastor David addresses a pressing question for our generation: How far is too far (sexually) for an unmarried couple? Go here to access “The Cross and Christian Sexuality-Part 2″ in its entirety.
Posted on February 17th, 2014 by David Burnette
Connecting the cross to everyday life can be a challenge for every believer, regardless of their occupation. But for busy moms this can be especially difficult, which is why we’re so grateful that Gloria Furman agreed to answer a few questions about this important topic. This is one of the topics we’ll be covering in our upcoming Secret Church, “The Cross and Everyday Life.”
Gloria is a wife, a mother of four young children, a doula, a blogger, and an author. She and her husband Dave serve at Redeemer Church in Dubai. Watch for Gloria’s forthcoming book Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms (expected March 31, 2014 from Crossway). Crossway has provided a free study guide for the book here.
1. Gloria, why is it so difficult for busy moms in particular to see how the gospel relates to their everyday life?
A few years ago I read this odd-sounding prayer that is attributed to Jonathan Edwards: “Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs.” Once I thought about it, I realized that it wasn’t so odd after all. I think the assumption behind this prayer is precisely what makes it hard for this busy mom to see how the gospel relates to everyday life.
I watch my preschoolers throwing elbows to push the buttons in the elevator and I find it hard to imagine them as adults. I grow frustrated while serving them and the furthest thing from my mind is that we have eternal souls and are unspeakably loved by our Creator. In short, I forget eternity and struggle to see how the gospel relates to these mundane mothering moments.
Many of us are used to thinking that the gospel is good news for non-Christians, but has little to do with believers who are years past our born-again birthday. We may think that the cross is good for annual reflection on Good Friday, but we need something “deeper” to get us through an ordinary, sock-folding Friday morning. But living in light of the gospel lifts our gaze to the horizon of eternity and it affects how we view everyday motherhood. We see that the cross is actually central to our motherhood. What distinctively Christian hope do we have as moms without the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and his triumphant resurrection? A gravely sobering: none.
We understand that we are about the work of helping to prepare our children for life in God’s new creation. But it’s difficult for busy moms to see how the gospel relates to everyday life because we’re often preoccupied by what’s right in front of us (or climbing on us). The gospel fuels our hope! And our work as moms can serve to fix the eyes of our hearts on our glorious God and on things unseen (2 Cor. 4:18) so we can see our work for what it really is—worship.
2. Can you give moms out there a practical example of how treasuring Christ and the gospel affects one of your everyday tasks?
The South Africans in our community have this saying: “Sharing is caring.” Like little parrots, my children repeat this phrase. Do you want a sip of mom’s peanut butter banana smoothie? Reach up with your little hands and squeal, “Sharing is caring, Mom!” Sharing is part and parcel to motherhood. In a thousand tiny ways we are called to share, to give, and to sacrifice. The sacrificial stretching of a mother can reach far—from your wallet to your weekend, your worries, and even your waistline.
But we live in an age that celebrates autonomy; we are lovers of self. When I feel like my child is intentionally testing my patience, my first thought is generally not that I’m eager to die to myself. I don’t care to share anything except a sharp rebuke or an ignoring, cold shoulder. But treasuring Christ flips my autonomy affair on its head and makes the inclination of my heart to celebrate dependence on God’s grace. In the everyday task of training my children the gospel reminds me that my Savior cared to share his own life with me by dying on the cross while I was yet his enemy (Rom. 5:8). He wore a crown of thorns and went down into the grave so he could redeem my life from the pit and crown me with his steadfast love and mercy. Christ gives me his love and mercy to share with my children.
It’s through Christ’s strength that I can give of myself in death-defying and death-embracing motherhood. Jesus empowers me to choose to nurture life instead of scorn it. He leads me to lay down my wants, needs, and rights for the sake of loving my kids. His love emboldens me to put to death the deeds of my flesh for the sake of loving my kids. And even when I fail to love as Christ loves (and we all fail), his Spirit encourages me to boldly approach God’s throne of grace because Christ himself is my righteousness. I love how 1 Peter 4:11 describes who gets the glory when I serve my children with the strength God supplies: “… in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Through these ordinary moments of motherhood Jesus invites us to himself to share in his love: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love” (John 15:9).
3. As you’ve noted before, many moms struggle to see the significance of their work. How would you encourage them to see their work as a part of the bigger picture of what God is doing in the world?
I will be the first to confess that my “big picture” vision is often getting dinner on the table and packing school lunches before I go to bed. It’s so easy to lose sight of the bigger picture of what God is doing in the world. That’s why we need to take the long-view of motherhood, which stretches way past potty training, high school graduation, and even the course of our own lives. The long-view of motherhood has at its center the cross of Jesus Christ. We see motherhood through the lens of Christ’s substitutionary death. Jesus’ death has made a way for you and your children to be fellow heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17, Heb. 2:11). Imagine… your son—a little brother in the Lord! Your daughter—a little sister in the Lord!
Mary’s newborn had tiny little feet and delicate toes—serpent-crushing feet (Gen. 3:15). God sent a man—the God-man—to do the work of subduing his enemy and pursuing his lost children to the furthest reaches of the earth scattered across every generation of human history. When it’s Tuesday morning and we see the effects of the Fall “as sin reigned in death,” we look to the cross and remember that because of Jesus’ death, “grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21). By God’s grace we are nurturing life in the face of death to the praise of his glory. That includes smearing butter on toast, cleaning smeared handprints from the walls, correcting homework and attitudes, and everything else busy moms do.
We must take the long-view of motherhood, where the serpent-crushing, incarnate Son of God is risen and reigning. The Father “put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22). Moms are part of Christ’s multiethnic Bride who walks the earth in her beautiful feet bringing good news to all peoples everywhere (Rom. 10:15). With the cross as our center, we can mother our children with an eye on the horizon of eternity.
Christian mother, be encouraged that you have your hands full… with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). And your work in nurturing your children is your privileged participation in God’s work as he unites all things in Jesus (Eph. 1:10).
In the wake of Super Bowl XLVIII, Albert Mohler commented on a recent essay published in The Washington Post titled “Is Religion Losing Ground To Sports?” Their answer was yes, and so was Mohler’s. According to him,
The fastest-growing segment of the American public in terms of religious identification is the ‘nones,’ designating those who identify with no religious tradition at all. At the same time, a religious dedication to sports has been growing. While correlation does not prove causation, the links between these two developments are haunting.
How is it haunting? Mohler pointed out the undying devotion of adolescent athletes and their parents who scarcely miss a practice, much less a game, while simultaneously, “team sports activities or other forms of organized athletics have taken many evangelical families away from church activities.” What is the object of our worship? To top off this sobering comparison, he metaphorically referred to the stadium in which next year’s already-anticipated Super Bowl will be held as a “cathedral” and the travel of the masses to it as a “pilgrimage.”
Given the wild popularity of athletics in our cultural climate today, this is one of the topics that David Platt will focus on in the upcoming Secret Church simulcast, “The Cross and Everyday Life.” As you’ll see in the below clip, though he is not opposed to sports, he resonates with Albert Mohler when it comes to the haunting correlation between the (often idolatrous) devotion people have to sports and the seeming lack of devotion they have to the church. Register for the April 18 simulcast to hear him unpack this a little bit more and explain how the gospel compels us to engage in sports in a healthy way.
Posted on February 3rd, 2014 by Jonathan
At some point or another, we’ve probably all heard or read the phrase, “Do what you love, love what you do.” In a recent article, Miya Tokumitsu waged war against it.
Of all the reasons she was opposed to the “Do what you love” (DWYL) mantra, one seemed to ring true: this mentality can be self-centered. In Tokumitsu’s words, “While DWYL seems harmless and precious, it is self-focused to the point of narcissism.” According to her, it applies only to the working elite who use it as they ignore the vast number of people who make possible their superior status by working the “unlovable” jobs that support them. Even if you disagree with Tokumitsu’s reasoning, she may be right that DWYL can easily turn into a cute disguise for “Whatever makes me happy.”
Tokumitsu is onto something. Maybe the DWYL attitude I embraced over the years is not be as helpful as I assumed it was. However, I think there is a distinct difference between “Do what you love” and “Love what you do.” While we should be careful about placing too much value into “Doing what we love” and subsequently acting solely out of our own selfish interests, I think everyone should pursue “loving what they do.” Contrary to Tokumitsu’s assumption that some work is inherently “unloveable,” I believe that all work has the capacity to be “lovable” through Christ. Passages like Colossians 3:23-24, and Genesis 2:15 (pre-Fall) make it clear that work is ordained by God and therefore valuable to Him. Laborers, then, can work to please God, making it a “lovable” and God-glorifying endeavor.
So follow Tokumitsu’s advice and give up the tired, old “Do what you love” ideology. Instead, through Christ, love what you do.
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