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The current installment of the COEC began meeting in 2007.

We are currently on a "break," for no particular reason, and many little reasons - mostly pertaining to life circumstances. If anyone is interested in calling a meeting, feel free to post on the blog, join the google group (see link below) and send an email, or contact either Nancy (nancykj10@yahoo.com) or Jesse (schroeder.jesse@gmail.com) for more information.

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8.18.2008

2 Opportunities

1) 30 Days of Prayer for Muslim Countries, during the month of Ramadan - Zack first told me about this last year, and it was a challenging time - not only in prayer, but also fasting to identify with Ramadan practices. It's a pretty awesome way to show love to millions of people.

2) "The Shack" discussion. Not sure if anyone else has read this book, but it's really good. My dad's church is hosting a discussion night, and everyone is welcome. Fri. Sept. 5th, 7pm.

18 comments:

Jane Johnson said...

So I'm wondering, would following Ramadan practices really show any love to any Muslims if none of them ever know what I'm doing? I don't personally know any Muslims, and I doubt the Somali girls that check out my books at the library would appreciate me randomly telling them about my fasting as a Christian during their holy month. It seems like maybe during Ramadan I should try to meet some Muslims!

Greg Lyons said...

I bought "The Shack" the other day and am looking forward to the discussion.

Paul Rimmer said...

Why would Christians fast during the month of Ramadan? I'm confused.

Christians, certainly, can (and at times should) explore different forms of Christian worship, and there are many different fasts honored by Christians over different times (such as the Little Lent around Christmas, the Great Lent, many others), but why would someone fast to honor a false religion? Or is the fast for another reason, and if so, what reason?

I am curious.

Jesse said...

This is from the "30 days of Prayer" website - perhaps it explains the intentions a bit more:

Several believers involved in a
international movement strongly sensed God’s desire to call as many Christians as possible to pray for the Muslim world. A prayer movement was planned to coincide with the Islamic month of Ramadan. It was
intended that “30 Days” should be during the month of Ramadan for at least two reasons: (1) as a means for Christians to identify themselves with Muslims during a fixed period of the year, (2) to call upon God’s sovereign intervention in the lives of Muslims during a time of the year when they are particularly religious. Praying during the month of Ramadan does not mean that we conform ourselves to the Muslim
practices of fasting and prayer.
As believers in Jesus we disagree with Islamic ideas, theology and practice in several areas. However, the “30 Days” movement emphasizes God’s love for Muslims. We encourage all believers in the Messiah to cultivate a spirit of humility, love, respect and service
toward Muslims.

Mike said...

My old roommate fasted with a Muslim he knew during Ramadan. I think he did it to get better acquainted with him. I don't believe he did it to give honor to Allah. Jesse's quote was helpful.

Paul Rimmer said...

Thank you for the clarification and helpful comments. I suppose one thing I still don't understand is what it would mean for Christians to identify with Muslim religious practices, and why we would want to do this.

Is it more significant than making friends with Muslims? Because that alone at least wouldn't seem to be enough reason for me.

Mike said...

Paul made a good point. You would want to have some objective in mind when your fasting. I believe doing this shows that you are willing to understand where they're coming from. As a Christian, you could show them that fasting is a voluntary act to help deepen your relationship with God.

Adam Newby said...

"I suppose one thing I still don't understand is what it would mean for Christians to identify with Muslim religious practices, and why we would want to do this."

Paul,
I once heard a great Christian describe how important it is to identify with people, no matter what background they are from. He said that he tried to do the same as the other person in order to minister to them.

I think he tried to show me that recognizing the importance of a person's background and understanding is a vital part of loving that person as a whole and sharing the gospel of love with them. What do you think of this idea?

Mike said...

One example would be James Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China. He would dress and talk like the people he was trying to reach. He is arguably one of the greatest missionaries that ever lived.

Jane Johnson said...

At the Xenos Summer Institute I made it to one session of several on reaching Muslims. Something I came away with, and which I have gathered from other sources, is that Christians really have a lot in common with Muslims. I mean, I knew that already, but this has somehow really been impressed on me recently. For instance, there are passages in the Qur'an that call Muslims to accept both the New and Old Testaments as divinely inspired by Allah. Some modern Muslim scholars believe that their religion can be saved from sliding into fundamentalism only if Muslims turn to Christ and follow him.

Perhaps fasting with a Muslim would be a way to highlight the similarities between Islam and Christianity, which might open the door for Muslims to become followers of Christ.

Jesse said...

In my opinion, there are many practical purposes for fasting to identify with Muslim practices, as some have mentioned here. However, the greatest benefit is spiritual and is intertwined with the relationship between prayer and fasting.

The impetus of this 30-day challenge is a burden for the Muslim world: for peace, for knowledge of Jesus as Savior, and for love. (I want to be clear to any outside reader that the motivation is not meant to be condescending or insulting, but primarily from a motivation of love). I cannot communicate this message to every Muslim in the world, especially those across the oceans, and I don't interact with many Muslims on a daily basis (very rarely actually).

But I can pray, and I can fast. And those actions have spiritual power that translate to real effects. No one may know about my fast. I may not tell anyone or explain why I am doing it to a Muslim, Christian, or other. But the fast is a powerful spiritual discipline in my growth an relationship with God, and it has spiritual power that connects with those to whom the fast is directed, in this case the Muslim world. Fasts are especially powerful when done together with other people of the same mindset, as is the case with this 30-day challenge.

Again, there are certainly practical actions that would be greatly beneficial - like talking to Muslims or sharing my faith specifically. But prayer is powerful in another way, and when joined together with fasting, takes on a new aspect, both for the believer and for the subject of the prayer/fast.

Just FYI - I've decided I won't be following the Ramadan fast this year, given the timing and the demands of school. I will be doing my best to pray on a daily basis though.

Adam Newby said...

Mike,
The Christian I was referring to is a man by the name of Paul. He's probably one of the best missionaries who ever lived, also. Though I doubt he dressed like the people he was trying to reach in order to identify with them. Instead, it was probably more in his attitude ... not the physical outward appearance.

He wrote in a letter to the Corinthians:
" 19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."

Nick Johnson said...

Adam, I think maybe you misunderstood Mike's response. I'm pretty sure that he is saying he respects this idea and he offered an example of someone putting it into practice.

Adam Newby said...

I'm sorry. That came out with some attack.

To be open and honest, it is Paul Rimmer's comment that I really wanted to address. But I didn't do that directly. I was addressing it in my usual passive aggressive way. I'll just be honest and say that this kind of attitude angers me. An attitude that if it isn't Christian, then it has not merit and anyone would be foolish to take the time to understand that point of view. If, as Christians, we want people to listen and understand our ways and take time to understand our customs and our way of lie, maybe we could afford the same attitude towards them.

Mike, you read what I had to say, and commented positively about it. Thanks.

Paul Rimmer said...

I would say my attitude is more a sort of confusion. It is true that I would not choose to fast specifically during the month of Ramadan without good reason, because according to my religious Tradition (Roman Catholicism), that would be wrong.

The Catholic Church holds strongly with using certain pagan and other non-Christian cultural practices, and changing their meanings, making them Christian, so that those from different cultures would have some common context. Nevertheless, the Church in its first few centuries of life, struggled deeply with itself between doing this, and syncretism. The line can be so blurred that those the Catholic Church has cast out, like Matthew Fox, don't always know or agree that they have crossed the line.

As such, I am curious about the reasons Christians would even be interested in practicing a tradition that isn't itself Christian. And what does this "identifying with" phrase mean?

I don't mean to be rude, but I do believe, from my own faith tradition, that there are right and wrong ways to worship, and very little separates them. As Chesterton said, "An inch may not seem like much, but an inch is everything when you are balancing." I am genuinely interested in finding out whether this would be something acceptable for me to do.

I am interested in learning more about Ramadan. I'm not so interested in practicing it, but I am interested in finding out why others do. I would ask for charity, specifically the charity of respecting the perspective I am coming from.

Paul Rimmer said...

To add, for clarification: I have been given some very understandable answers as to why some people choose to practice Ramadan; the possible evangelism, and even the love for the person as he or she is, and not as he or she may become once "saved", certainly are good strong reasons for doing this. Thank you all for your answers, and for your honesty.

It would be, I think, wonderful to connect something Christian with the practice of Ramadan, to stave away from syncretism, if you are interested in doing so (this may be a primarily Catholic Church sort of concern; I am unsure). September holds, for both Orthodox and Catholics (and Anglicans, I believe) the feast of the life-giving cross. The Ramadan Fast has an excellent parallel to this, that one would eat in preparation of the dawn; this could be very Eucharistic; and the fast itself could be used to unite one's sufferings to the suffering of Christ Jesus upon the cross which, at the end of that suffering, when the sun is set, has won for us so wonderful an eternal banquet.

Just some ideas (the dates wouldn't always line up so well for this); in a context such as this, I could certainly see myself and maybe my wife honoring a sort of Ramadan.

Adam Newby said...

Paul, I really like your comments. On a note different than the subject at hand, allow me to say that I spoke before without opening my ears and my mind to your thoughts. I apologize to you and to everyone else who reads and comments on this blog. This is a practice I struggle with lately. A practice that I criticize others for. I think it comes from wounds re-opened at the Xenos conference. And I've decided I need to just keep my lid shut for a while on this blog until I learn how to deal with it, lest I hurt others. And I ask anyone who would be willing to please pray that God would grant me healing and much needed humility.

One last thing, Paul ... really appreciated your thoughts on the fear of God in the other post.

Peace for now.

Jesse said...

Hey Paul - thanks for your continued comments. I appreciate your willingness to dig deeper into this issue.

As you know, the practice of fasting is not unique to Christianity, but it is certainly a Christian practice, going back even before the time of Jesus. Fasting is a spiritual discipline - a physical action that we can do to open us up to experience the grace of God in our life. In a fast, a believer is forced to rely upon God more, prayer is intensified and focused, and the results are often dramatic. There are many examples of this in the Bible and from the lives Christian heroes. I've read that John Wesley said he thought Christian leaders should fast at least 2 days a week.

So why fast during Ramadan? The Muslim world is experiencing extreme unrest, both within their own tradition and amongst other believers. Many of the wars of our time are fought in Muslim countries and are related to Islamic jihad. (Note: I recognized the same was and is true of Christians throughout history and even today, but it is certainly more intense in Muslim countries).

Furthermore, as a Christian, I believe that Muslims don't have the full revelation and relationship possible with Jesus Christ. More than anything, I want a believer in God/Allah to know that they are forgiven through Jesus and can live in his peace and love. Finally, many Christians are persecuted in Muslim countries.

So there are many good reasons to pray for Muslims and Muslim countries. And fasting intensifies prayer. Another aspect of fasting is that it is a point of connection , a way to identify with, a means of creating solidarity between groups that are far apart. It goes beyond just saying a few words in the morning or evening before going to bed. Throughout the day the person who is fasting is thinking about their fast and thinking about why they are fasting. In this case, fasting for peace, salvation and love for Muslims around the world.

Corporate fasts are also shown to be especially powerful, both in Scripture and in Christian experience. The 30 day Muslim fast is one that is practiced by Christians across the world, and there is a certain aspect of joining alongside other Christians at certain times for certain reasons. There is a lot of power in the practice of corporate fasting.

As I see it, those are the reasons for choosing to fast during the month of Ramadan, even alongside Ramadan practices. A month in which Muslims are seeking God themselves could be a time that they find God in a new and beautiful way. I appreciate the caution against sincretism, however, because fasting is a practice held by many different religions, I do not think it is particularly a concern in this case. A Christian fast will always primarily be a Christian fast, even if it is to identify with another religion.

Hope those thoughts help Paul! Again, thanks so much for your comments and your input. Your distinctly Roman Catholic perspective is valuable in these discussions! I appreciate it greatly.