January 26, Thursday

Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor, Ph.D.) will present a series of blogs, dealing with various issues raised in the recent election that showed a deep divide, impacting both society at large and the church.  The thoughts presented are processed through the lens of the Radical-Middle (both/and), personal narratives, and pastoral concerns.  Your rational feedback is welcomed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY

Getting to Know Muslims While Praying with Them in the Same Room

Acts 17:28 (ESV)

For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we are indeed his offspring.”

Whenever I get stuck at an airport on a Sunday while traveling, I try to have a personal devotional time at an airport chapel.   Typical airport chapels in East Asia don’t have any chairs in order to accommodate the way Muslims pray (prostration).  Occasionally, praying in the same room with Muslims, I observed a few things that have helped me to somehow connect with them.

26aLast March, no one was in a small Narita airport chapel when I entered; later, while I was reading the Bible, a young Muslim walked in.  I quickly felt uncomfortable because he prayed in a prostrated position directly in front of me.  Upon seeing the ceiling compass, however, I realized that I sat in a direction toward Mecca.  While the scene may have looked funny to some, no distraction was going to keep this Muslim from prostrating before Allah—that’s taking one’s faith seriously and we ought to respect that!

26bShortly thereafter, a Muslim woman walked in; and before praying, she first put on her white prayer clothe.  But when I glanced to see if she was praying, to my humor, I saw her fidgeting with her smartphone.  I had no idea what she was searching, but seeing her sidetracked by the same gadget that distracts all of us had a strange effect of identifying with her humanity—that is, whether we are Christians and Muslims, we, as human beings, share a lot in common.

Agreeing with what was said by a pagan writer, the apostle Paul declares to the Athenians, “For we are indeed his offspring”—meaning God’s creation.

26cBut to say that Christians and Muslims pray to the same God would be an insult to both.  I tried to demonstrate that the first time I visited a prayer room at the Hong Kong airport.  Seeing that only Muslims were praying, I also wanted them to know that Christians pray earnestly and take prayer seriously just as much as Muslims do, since they typically believe that Christians don’t really pray much.  First, to distinguish myself as a Christian, I knelt facing the opposite direction from the wall faced by Muslims.  At the outset, I was very conscious of wanting to show an earnest praying Christian, but as my prayer got more intense, I forgot all about my surroundings.  It dawned on me only after I was done praying that I was the only one left in the chapel.  To the extent that any Muslims in the chapel noticed a Christian praying as fervently and extendedly as they, I hope it was a moment of distinguishing our faith.  That day, nothing really happened in the prayer room: They prayed, and I did too, with no one interfering on another.

Is fear of the Muslims rational?  Not the Muslims whom I met at home or abroad.  But, anytime a religion becomes toxic (extreme), whether it be Islam or Christianity, we have reason to be concerned.  But, let’s do our part first: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that . . . they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12, ESV).

Prayer: Father, help me to get out of my Christian cocoon and interact with my surroundings with knowledge, the Spirit and love.  Help me to see that the world is changing, and that I need to really know the Scripture as well as what others believe.  Help me to be an effective ambassador for You.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Judges 3


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

Read Prov. 6:6 (ESV): Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!

Acts 14:17: “Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”  

Questions to Consider

  1. If we humans can learn something from ants, what positive things can we learn from the Muslims?
  2. Acts 14:17 was what Paul said to the pagans in Lystra (today’s Turkey). While some may assume that God only cares about those who believe Him, how does God really feel toward those who don’t?
  3. We live at a time when the believers need to be on top of their “game” (i.e., faith)—meaning we really need to know how to articulate and defend our faith against both the thought-policing by some liberals and bigotry among some conservatives. In reflecting upon this morning’s devotional, what are some takeaways that can help you better relate to Muslims?

Notes

  1. Since Muslims take their prayer life very seriously, the Christians in the West should imitate that. The devout Muslims pray five times a day— that’s dedication! Since God tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17), we ought to develop a life of constant prayer (which may include a lengthy uninterrupted time of prayer as well as brief prayers throughout the day).
  2. Paul declares very clearly that God is kind to those who don’t acknowledge him, making sure that they have plenty to eat. The fact that many still go hungry in the world has to do with corrupt political systems that won’t allow the aid to get to the needy people, rather than with God.
  3. Personal response.

EVENING REFLECTION

Seeing how people live on the other side of the globe broadens our perspectives and prompts us to appreciate the greatness of God’s love for all peoples.  Have you ever had an opportunity to step outside of the comforts of America and step into the land of different religions, cultures, and living standards?  The next time you travel, sit back and watch the people.  I like to watch how outdoor merchants interact with their customers, or in some cases, sit idly while waiting for them.  I see how industrious they are as well as their despondency; their joy as well as disappointments.  Oh, how I desire that they know the God of this universe, who created them in His likeness (James 3:9), and sent His own Son to die for them!  Would you pray for the people of the global south right now, where there are many Muslims?  Pray earnestly for them, “for God so love the world that He gave his one and only Son.”

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