30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World

Here is a guest post informing us of an opportunity to join together as the body to pray.  Our guest writer is Matthew Friedman who is one of our newest additions to the Oak Hills faculty.  

This year, from about July 20 until August 18, the more than one billion Muslims worldwide will engage in fasting and celebration, both as a challenge of overcoming the flesh as well as a celebration of the Qur’an, their revered scripture, through the month of Ramadan on the Islamic calendar. From dawn until dusk, religious Muslim people abstain from all eating, drinking, smoking and marital relations. In the evenings, however, Muslims often gather with family and friends to break the fast, and for many Muslim people it is the most special time of the year.

For the past 20 years, hundreds of thousands of believers in Jesus around the world have spent the month of Ramadan interceding with God for these Muslim people, crying out to God to reveal himself to them in Jesus. This year will mark the 21st year of the annual publication of the booklet, 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World. Each year a new guide is published with information and pictures of Muslim people groups worldwide and issues for prayer in the Muslim World, coordinating the prayers of these many thousands of believers in many languages. There is also a simplified version of the prayer guide available for children.

Join us this year in prayer and intercession for the glory of God and the name of Jesus among Muslim people: There is much information on the website for the 30 Days guide, and it can now be downloaded in PDF (including the PDF children’s version of the Prayer Guide), Kindle, and HTML formats – all free!

-Matthew Friedman

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Follow the Light – Chad Riggs

You’re familiar with this thing, aren’t you?  It does its whole green, yellow, and red bit.  Green means…..go.  Yellow…..caution. And red means….stop!  Now that’s what those colors mean on paper, but I’ve discovered that here in Colorado Springs, green means: “I’ll put down the phone and pay attention to the light so I can go fast.” Yellow means: “Floor it!”  And red means: “Well, how long has it been red? Could I still get through the intersection without being hit? If I think I can I will… otherwise, I’ll have to stop!”  Now, the local, homegrown folks like to say, “It’s the Californians.”  I respond by saying, “Okay…I’m fine with blaming them for just about anything.”

But, seriously, the green go, the yellow caution, and the red stop —these traffic codes—are something that we need in order to safely get where we need to be.  By using them, society has been able to “direct” chaos; and it’s not that all these cars are chaotically driving around…it’s that we all have different places to be and we need to coordinate our getting there.  Does that sound right?

Well, I don’t want to reduce God into a traffic signal, but when we start thinking about how God directs us in His time, we can think of the traffic signal colors: green, yellow, and red.  Know that God does have plans for each and every one of us that fits into His Divine Plan.  Know that God is speaking to us, directing us through our lives.  But we have to recognize God’s leading and timing.  In God’s timing, we sometimes get a “go,” in other situations we receive the “caution,” and then there’s the “stop” of God.  Look at Paul’s life as recorded in Acts.  Try and see how the traffic light colors might apply to these verses (Act 15:36-41; 16:6-10):

36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Where are the green lights Paul received from God?  The opening sentence gives us the first one. Paul feels the prompting of the Spirit to retrace their gospel-planting steps and, ultimately, that is what he does–he leaves with Silas, under the blessing of the brothers and the Lord, to go through Syria and Cilicia to do ministry.  And later, we see Paul receiving a green light to go over to Macedonia (that’s Greece/Europe) to bring the good news about Jesus Christ to a whole other continent.

But it wasn’t all green lights, was it?  There were other lights that happened in between these two green lights.

Go back to the verse… Paul gets the green light to go and visit the churches he and Barnabas had planted on their last missionary journey.  Now, Barnabas has a green light to take John Mark on the trip, Paul has a red light–here we have a yellow light.  We have two amazing Believers who have heard God giving them a green light to a follow-up ministry, but they have not heard exactly how they are to go about it.  So, there is conflict—disagreement…and the decision to go two separate ways.  There is a yellow in verse eight where Paul and Barnabas are traveling from one spot to another, waiting “in between lights”…like a holding pattern.

Finally, there is the red light.  Paul believes he is being led to further expand the Gospel into Asia, but what ends up happening is a big red light.  We don’t know the events that led Paul and Silas to see that the Spirit had given them the stop, but we know that it happened and Paul had either assumed or desired to go in a direction that God didn’t want him to go.

Green, Yellow, Red.  Wouldn’t it be easy if our lives were filled with green lights–those times where the way is clear and we see where we’re going, knowing that God is blessing it?  But God can’t use just green lights…we don’t always drive where we’re supposed to go.  Sometimes we need something other than green to tell us how God wants us to go forward.  That means we need to be able to recognize the difference between green, yellow, and red.

Do you recognize God’s red lights in your life–those times you expect to go forward but are prevented from it?  A number of years ago (when I was 20!), I applied to be the youth pastor at church in Oregon…I didn’t get the position.  That was a red light–God had a different direction for me.  It wasn’t that God didn’t want me in ministry…it was that God had something else for me at that time.  Looking at your life, do you see the red lights?

What about the yellow lights?  One of the most recent yellow lights in my congregation’s life was probably whether or not to extend a call to me as pastor.  It could have been a carbon copy of the Paul and Barnabas dilemma.  People saw God working or moving in different ways.   Yellow lights often involve disagreement with people because it is not a clear “yes” or “no” at the time.  I think it becomes clearer with time, but when you’re in the moment and things are not clear, it warrants caution in how we proceed.

Green means ______, Yellow means ______, and red means ______.  We learn these traffic rules way before we get to drive on our own, don’t we?  How early did you learn…five, seven, when?  But, regardless of how early I learned them, I have to admit that I don’t always pay attention to them…I get distracted.  And I also have to admit that I drive recklessly…sometimes I do floor it on yellows.  And, I have ran red lights and I have sat still at green lights.  I’ve been in wrecks because of this recklessness…my inattention or my disregard of the signs makes me a dangerous driver.

Can the same be said in the spiritual direction of our lives?  Do we live spiritually like we drive—distracted by other things, not paying attention to the light or reinterpreting the rules for our benefit?  Have we ever had a spiritual wreck because we treated a yellow like a green?  Have we ran too many red lights because our timing and priorities were more important than God’s?

Friends, God is lovingly directing us with His “greens,” “yellows,” and “reds.”  But we’ve got to recognize and follow God’s lights.  If we don’t know it, we’ve got to learn it.  If we’re distracted, we’ve got to get refocused.  If we’re ignoring the lights, we’ve got repent.   Each of us are on the road right now… and God is calling us to begin to follow the Light  He is giving us.

 

This guest post was written by Chad Riggs.  Chad is a former Oak Hills professor and currently serves as the pastor of First Friends Church in Colorado Springs, CO

Heaven, Hell, and the Other – Chad Riggs

A couple of months ago I invited the congregation I serve to give me some topics which could be developed or incorporated into our morning worship.  Someone wrote down the question, “What is Heaven like?”  I remember reading that and thinking… “That won’t be easy.”  So I did the best thing I could think of… I would avoid it.  Well, about a month after that, someone else (I assume it was someone else) asked me what I thought about Hell and whether there was such a place and what I thought of a current author’s ideas on the subject. I remember him asking these things and thinking… “This won’t be easy.”  And during that conversation, the Spirit gave me the impression that I now had a missing ingredient to partner with the Heaven question and that I would need to give more attention to listening…because there was another “forgotten” ingredient that needed to be proclaimed in all this Heaven and Hell business.  I’ll get to that in a bit… but first let’s talk about Heaven.

Heaven is often described in images, right?  Some of our images come from Scripture and some come from popular culture.  There are the Pearly Gates with Peter and his keys; golden streets and a river of life; there are mansions and angels with harps; on and on.  Ultimately, Heaven is depicted as a good place to be after this earthly existence.

Hell, on the other hand, is depicted as a bad place to be.  It, too, is often described in images.  A Lake of Fire surrounded by devils with pitchforks poking people down into their sulfurous suffering; darkness, weeping, and teeth grinding; on and on.  Again, some of our images come from Scripture and some from popular culture.

I didn’t bring up Heaven and Hell simply to provide a travel brochure for either place.  Instead, I was led to speak of our motivations regarding Heaven and Hell.  I asked them—and I ask you—what is the reason why you want to go to Heaven?  Is it because you want to reunite with family members and friends?  Is Heaven a miracle-cure hospital for you… no more pains and no more anxieties?  Is it because Heaven sounds like a wonderful country club where the putting greens are always cut, the pool is relaxing, and the quality of service is angelic?    Is it a group of perfectly pious and holy people… no more of the earthly, sinful “riff raff”?  Is it because you want to avoid Hell?

Why is it that you don’t want to go to Hell? I, personally, don’t do well in the heat.  Is it the darkness, the pitchfork, or the smell of sulfur?  Would ending up there be a contradiction to all the good things you’ve done here on Earth?  More than likely it is the simple idea of Hell being punishment.

I’m going to be honest here and say that I don’t know a whole lot about either Heaven or Hell.  I don’t know if the descriptions of Heaven and Hell are like the biblical descriptions of the Promised Land in Exodus… “a land flowing with milk and honey…” which is definitely figurative and referring to God’s blessing because the true environment of the Holy Land is not  that great OR if the description of Heaven and Hell are like the description of Solomon’s Temple…spelled out in literal, specific detail.  I have friends who are sincere Believers and see it both ways.  And even though I am convinced that Heaven and Hell are real outcomes…I have friends who are sincere Believers who are not convinced that Heaven and Hell are not real.

I assume that many of you—after hearing that—are struggling with my attaching “sincere Believers” to the phrase “don’t believe in the places of Heaven/Hell.”  Well, here’s where I think I’m going out on a limb.  I am convinced that the ideas of Heaven and Hell are too often a distraction to the Christian faith.  And these places distract both those who believe in them and those who do not.

Why are they distractions?  Because we all-too-often think about ourselves or our own personal interests when it comes to Heaven and Hell… “Will I make it? Will my family and friends be there? Will I be bored?  Will I suffer? Will I die the Second Death…forever?”  You see, all these questions reveal our self-centeredness!  Instead, our focus is to be on Jesus Christ and our love-relationship with him.  He is the destination.  That’s it, end of point.  Because whatever destination you and I end up in is really inconsequential to us compared to the relationship we have with Jesus Christ.

And here is the most egregious part in the distraction of Heaven and Hell: when we put Heaven and Hell as the destination—the goal—of our earthly pursuits, Jesus becomes a tool or equation for our strategy; Jesus becomes our “gate pass” or “fire insurance.”  If you want to talk of blasphemy…this is truly blasphemy.  In fact if we were to reflect on the “sheep and goats” parable in Matthew 25—which speaks of Christ judging the world—we see that both groups call Jesus Lord…both believe him to be their Savior, but Jesus says that only one group really knew him (not knew about him, but knew him relationally).  It also reminds me what Jesus says when he describes how he will judge in the end according to Matthew 7… “Many will come to me and say, Lord, Lord did we not do [this and that] in your name…but I will tell them ‘I knew you not…depart from me.’”

Here’s the point made in two short sentences: To know Jesus Christ—to be in a real, vital relationship—is the purpose and goal of our life.  Do not be distracted by heavenly delights or hellish frights—or other people’s beliefs on such things.

For many years I was distracted by just this last statement—there are so many thoughts on Heaven and Hell (what they will be like or why they don’t exist and whatever else can be said about them).  Finally, the Spirit asked me: if all the delights of Heaven (even Heaven itself) and all the fears of Hell (even Hell itself) were to disappear as a reward or punishment…would you stick with me?  And it made sense… it was just like when a spouse asks the other spouse, “Do you love me for me or do you love me for what you get for being with me?”

If our relationship with Jesus Christ is about anything other than being in a love-relationship with him, we not only miss the point of God’s Covenant, we abuse Love and Grace.

 

This guest post was written by Chad Riggs.  Chad is a former Oak Hills professor and currently serves as the pastor of First Friends Church in Colorado Springs, CO