To Fast or Not to Fast

“David, it is 43 degrees Celcius (approx 110 degrees Fahrenheit) here in Egypt!” Mahmoud exclaimed to me. I laughed and he laughed. I asked, “And you’re fasting too!!” He immediately said, “No! That’s impossible!” We laughed together as we talked. He is in Egypt, the land that I love and I am here in the States. Right now it is Ramadan for the Muslims so they are supposed to fast during this time. Egyptians are in dire straits and in difficulties, but they still love to laugh and have a great time. They love to joke even in times of pain. That is the most beautiful thing about Egypt, the people.

This month is very trying for the Muslims in NAfrica due to the extremely hot climate, but also because it is the holy Islamic month of Ramadan. This is a time where Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sunset. They cannot eat or drink any liquid, including water. They are not supposed to take pleasure in activities and you see many walking around with solemn faces advertising that they are fasting. As I drove down the streets of Maadi during Ramadan, I would see ahawas (outdoor coffee and sheesha shops) that were completely covered over. Everyone knew that there were men in there drinking tea, smoking sheesha and eating bean pitas. They were supposed to be fasting, but they thought, if you don’t see me, it’s okay. Of course, there are many that keep the fast and you even here about some that die fasting. The Muslim will say “Ilhumdllah, Praise be to God. He is now in Paradise.” There are crowded streets, shouting and fighting and grouchy passersby due to the lack of food and drink. On the metro, many chant the Quran and memorize each sura for approval from Allah and to be a better person.

We see some following the fast and others that will not and cannot. Both of them have issues because the one that does the fast, feels prideful about himself and believes he has earned more favor to go Paradise and the other feels condemned and feels he must make up for it some way.

This is just one law that the Quran and  Hadith demands. There are laws and if they are broken, there is sure condemnation and less of a chance for Paradise where there are rewards of sensual pleasure that could not be experienced on the earth, but now can be experienced for eternity. It is a law that cannot be fulfilled because the heart of mankind is corrupt. It is a law that if partially fulfilled causes pride and arrogance or condemnation. It is a law that comes from corruption and reaps corruption. Can Muslims be forgiven by keeping laws? Can we be forgiven by keeping the OT law? Can we earn our way to heaven?

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28

Man cannot fully keep the law of the holy God of heaven. Man cannot keep the laws of the god of the Quran. The law shows our insufficiency, but the mighty sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the answer to the deception of fasting for favor from God. He is the fulfiller of the law and He works in us to do His will. He is the one that is holy and just, yet full of grace. Is it okay to fast and to do good deeds? Of course!! These works are not a part of our justification and forgiveness of sins, but something we do out of love for the God that saves.

Those that think they can make it to heaven through laws and works are deceived. They need someone to save them from the curse of the law. They need someone to work in them to do according to His word. They need a book that shows the way to eternal life. It is all found in Christ.

He is the answer that is needed for true hope and joy. His word is pure and guides our way. He wants to answer their needs. He wants to show them they cannot earn their way to heaven, but He freely gives His all.

“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” Romans 3:24

Pray for Muslims all over the world that seek favor and enlightenment during this time. We have the answer and His name is Jesus. Let Him answer their need through you. If they trust in Christ alone for salvation, He will save and give life and that more abundantly.

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Cast Your Care

“That Ingeely was totally wrong! (Ingeely: evangelical in Arabic: a general name for Christians who are not Coptic Orthodox in Egypt). “I know Jesus died for us, but you have to work to get to heaven! You must let God do His part, but if you do not get baptized, or take the Lord’s Supper and cease from bad works, how can you be forgiven! You can’t!” Karollos strongly proclaimed. “Imagine them saying that salvation is by grace through faith alone. They think that you do not work for salvation. How deceived!”

Karollos continued arguing in his mind as he went to St Mary Coptic Church on the Nile River in Maadi. It was a historic masterpiece with a beautiful view of the serene water. The name of the church is given to the one he perceives is the Holy Mother that is at the right hand of the Father. Karollos chants at the beginning of mass that St Mary intercedes for him. He forgot to pray that morning and he didn’t fast like he was supposed to. He knew if he died on the way to church before confession and mass, he would assuredly go to the Fire. He was a good Coptic, but he did not know if he was forgiven. He did not have peace. He could not seem to do enough to gain heaven. He continued on in drudgery, knowing that he was right and that salvation by grace through faith was too easy and could not be true. He had small doubts and wanted peace, but hoped he would receive peace after he died.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)

Religion that demands dead works as worship and as a means of salvation, is not salvation at all. It is BONDAGE! Religions across the world bind people and give them false expectations and no hope at all. They seek forgiveness, but can never obtain. They want peace, but there lies war within. They want hope, but they cannot get past their guilt and pain. They want heaven, but their circumstances make them sense they are headed to hell.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30

When you truly come to Jesus, there is rest. You have a peace that there is forgiveness that is freely given, victory over sin, and a home in glory. Jesus says to “Come.” We choose to go to the feet of Jesus by grace through faith. This does not mean there are no trials or tribulations. This does not mean there is no temptation to sin. This does not mean that we do not feel helpless at times. It does mean that as we come to the Lord Jesus by faith and grasp His promises, we have peace. This concept is foreign to peoples all over the earth. They are bound by tradition, false religion, sins, and hopelessness. The example of Karollos, a Coptic in Egypt, is a reflection of millions in Egypt and throughout the world. They need help. They need the gospel.

Will you come to Egypt to take part in preaching the gospel of grace and truth? Will you pray for laborers to go to the fields without forgetting the need to go, as well? Will you tell those enslaved by sin to cast their cares on the Savior that lived, died and rose again for our salvation. He is rest. He breaks the bondage. Christ is all and more than enough, but rest is found when the cares are left to Him. Will you take some by the hand and lead them to the Lord Jesus so they too can find rest unto their souls?

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

Fatima is weary from her flight to Mecca. She saved up money for years to come to Mecca, the holy city of Islam. She wants to fulfill all of the five pillars of Islam. She wants forgiveness of sins. The hustle and bustle of the city overwhelm her. Millions are there with Fatima. Some smile and others look distraught. Some eagerly await for their turn to enter the holy place. Other women are in line to walk with their mahram (a male that must walk with the women). She saw some ladies leaving the pilgrimage with tears. They were not tears of joy, but of abuse. She does not have the respect she wants from her husband. He just married a younger, more beautiful girl. She fought and complained, but her husband nearly beat her and said that she must submit. She felt at odds and hurt, but she knew that the Prophet did the same. He married many other women. She walked around the Kabba (Black monument in the center of Mecca) and was groped several times. Once again, she felt hurt, but maybe she had to suffer and sacrifice like this for Allah to see her and forgive her. After her experience, she thought, “Is it true that I’ve been forgiven of my sins? I know I will fail again. Can I have the peace that I have been searching for?” She then goes back to Egypt and ready to do more in Islam, but still feeling empty and uncertain about her future.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” Eph 1:4. 

Many people look for hope and peace. I praise the Lord for the God of the Bible. The Holy God of heaven made Himself accessible when He became flesh and then died and rose again from the dead. He conquered death and ever lives to intercede for the believer. We trust in Him and He receives us and we receive Him. Along with Christ, we have all spiritual blessings in Him. He is the sweet treasure that is also love, joy, peace, forgiveness, righteousness. He is my wisdom in times of doubt. He is freedom from bondage. He is victory over the grave. He is all I need.

When Paul was being beaten and worn. He too had fears and doubts, but he rested in the all sufficient God to hold and keep him. No matter what the conflict, he knew Christ was his deliverance.

“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;” 2 Cor 1:8-10

There are people searching for these things and cannot seem to find them. This manifests itself in so many ways. One was described above, but the same can be seen in the dedicated Buddhist with his chants searching to be nothing. The atheist that denies God and lives his life not regarding the authority of the Almighty that is clearly seen in creation and conscience and in the word of God. It shows forth in the life of the meth addict that wants another fix. Christ fulfills and He gives all and gives according to the riches of His grace. We are blessed.

Look around you today and see those around you as Christ sees them. Are there people around you that are searching for something that you have been freely given? Share this treasure that can fill. Share the Gospel. They can receive these spiritual blessings, when they receive Christ.

Work Together for the Gospel’s Sake

“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Phil 1:27

“God is working and we are blessed!” Gergis in Egypt excitedly told me.

It amazes me to see that the Lord of glory uses us for the proclamation of His name. We can actually work together as believers to see His name magnified here and in all the earth. Countless millions still do not know about the name of the Lord Jesus. They need to hear. The Lord Jesus gave a command to His disciples to Go and preach and to make more disciples. We are the fruit of the labors of Christ in His disciples. Now He uses the foolishness of preaching to confound the wise. He uses the believers to go forth and show the gospel to others by word and deed. As we submit to Him, His love for the world will manifest itself in our hearts and then through our actions.

This striving together is not bound by location. Paul was in a dark prison when he commanded the Philippian church to work together for the gospel, but Paul prayed for the believers while trapped in prison (1:9-11). They also prayed for him and supported his work as he lifted up the name of Jesus. There was a mindset of working together for the sake of the Gospel.

While I am here in the States, I am able to encourage the believers in Egypt. I counsel Gergis and still disciple him with Bible lessons through technology. I share things I am learning and then he passes it on to the believers and the lost there in Egypt. We continually pray for one another. Gergis encouraged me by sharing that his family prays for us everyday by name.

The devil causes divisions by his temptation, but we do not have to submit to the workings of the devil and the flesh. Greater is the God that is in us (1 Jn 4:4). We can choose to work together for the sake of the Gospel, no matter our location and no matter the cost.

I ask you to start striving together with those around you to exalt the name of Jesus. If you have missionary friends in other countries, pray for them and send them a note of encouragement. God can use you to strive together with them and other believers in the battle we go through. I believe others can come to know Him and He will be glorified now and into eternity by the work we do together for His name’s sake.

A Portal of Hope

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:  Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily. 

As Mohammed heard the call to prayer, he went anticipating to hear a message from the Quran and to pray to Allah. He would sometimes meditate on the teachings of Sufi cleric, Sheikh Eid Al-Jariri, before walking to the mosque. The weather was particularly nice this day and he knew it would be a good day. Mohammed was greeted by friends and welcomed in as the worship began. The message was one of worship to Allah and peace with friends. It seemed to be a hopeful message. As prayers were closing, Mohammed walked out with his friends, Ahmed and Ali, then BOOM…!! A loud, explosive sound came from inside the mosque, a bomb and then another right after that one! Screams break into the air and then gunfire is heard. “Allah Akbar!!” is shrieked and then more gunfire. “Run, Run, Run!!” Mohammed sees blood on his hands as Ahmed falls to the ground. They run as bullets fly past him and then more explosions. The ambulance comes and Mohammed cries, “Please help me, help us here!” The gunshots blow up the ambulance and there is no escape. Mohammed looks into the sky and prays for mercy and then looks to see the bodies of 2 young boys and others all around. “Mercy, Allah!!” and then as he screams, the bullets pierce his chest and then he screeches in pain and gasps for breath. He looks to the left to see Ali with the blank look of death and blood all over his newly bought galabeya (cultural robe) drenched with blood. Then Mohammed closes his eyes and dies.

Mohammed wasn’t expecting to die at the hand of other Muslims. He simply wanted to worship his god according to his conscience. Then he and over 200 Muslims died from a deliberate act of terror this past week in Bir al-Abed Egypt. It is a small town of a little over 1900 people. This is still a shock to this town where every family was effected. This senseless outrage was done to appease the false god of a religion that breeds on fear. Mohammed was one of many that died without hope.

Our only hope is in the cross and the resurrection. The Gospel springs forth hope and salvation. We have God’s life bringing message and sometimes, we are the only ones with it. What I mean is, that the Gospel is about Jesus and it is a message for the entire world. Why is this treasure kept to us, when it is a gift that is free for all? What would have happened if these terrorists were shown the power of the Gospel? What would have happened had Mohammed heard the truth of a Loving God that gave Himself for him. Hope only heals if it arrives on time. People are in darkness. Why not be a portal and ray of hope to those who have never heard that the Lord Jesus Christ, God of Life, died, was buried and Rose Again so that you, who was dead in sins could live life and that more abundantly.

Open Doors

Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance… Col 4:3-4

“Does the religion of God need updates?” Mostafa sincerely asked. I searched for a hotel to stay at as I was driving up to PA from GA. I stopped in to Comfort Inn in VA. The greeter at the front desk said that I hadn’t reserved, although I tried to make this reservation earlier. I left baffled and tried to find another place. I drove to another exit and didn’t find anything. I drove all the way back seeing on the internet that a room was available at the Comfort Inn. I made the reservation and to my surprise there was a new person at the front desk when I entered. He looked Arab and his name was Mostafa. I greeted him in Arabic and he responded the same way.
“Izaauk” How are you? in Egyptian Arabic. “Ilhumdollah.” Praise be to God.  I found out that he was from Egypt and I thanked the Lord for the opportunity to make a new friend.
God opened up a door of utterance and we were able to get acquainted for hours and I was able to witness to him. Mostafa wondered why the Old Testament needed to have the New Testament and then the Quran. He wondered about the differences and how they could be reconciled if they were the same God. I was able to explain the diffference between God’s word and the Quran. Mostafa was inquisitive and had honest questions. By the time I decided to go to bed around 2AM, my friend promised to read the NT and to search the Scriptures for the truth.

We need to always be ready to speak the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is always faithful to give opportunities to witness when we pray and are ready. God continually brings Egyptians across my path that are open to hear the truth, even while I am here in the United States. Mahroos is another friend that the Lord brought across my path and he visited the church after I invited him!!

The Lord of glory desires to see all know Him, but He wants His people to listen to His command to go into all the earth and proclaim His glorious name. “How shall they hear without a preacher?” The answer to this is, they won’t.

 

God meant it unto Good

“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Gen 50:20

 “I need a copy of the Bible. I need it as soon as possible.” Waleed, my Muslim friend insisted. Let’s rewind. Just a few months ago, Coptic churches were bombed by Islamic terrorists. Then a few weeks ago, terror struck again when Jihadists stopped a bus filled with kids going on a field trip to St Samuel Monastery. 28 people were killed, including children. These atrocities grieve and sicken the hearts of many. Many angrily cursed Muslims. Others shared their opinions on Facebook. Many were so distressed, they didn’t want to leave home. Can any good come from these circumstances?

When Joseph was thrown into the pit by his brothers, they meant it unto evil, but God used it for his glory. Nations were saved from starvation and the kingdom of God went forward because of the faithfulness and wisdom of God to use rejection and tragedy for His glory. Is God the Author of sin? Does he approve of sin? No, He does not. He hates it so much that He would die on the cross for us. These freely chose to use the gift of free will to destroy, but God worked through these circumstances for His name’s sake.

Back to Waleed. I spoke to him many years ago about the Lord Jesus. I witnessed to him and other Muslim friends around his work place. I hadn’t seen him in years. I planned to walk into his work place, The Bakery Shop and head back home to eat some warm doughnuts and cake! As I spoke to him, I was cordial and wished him to find God during the Month of Ramadan. As I was about to leave, Waleed asked for God’s word. He can’t wait to read it. I know God’s word will not return void. I truly believe he will find God. The Muslims are tired of seeing the violence from those claiming to be true followers of Islam. They are broken by what they see. Some deny and some defend, but others open up to the Gospel. Jesus seeks sinners and He uses His people to lift up His name. He uses circumstances that are unspeakable to be glorified. He healed a man that was blind from birth for His glory. We pray He will be magnified in these tragic conditions, as well.

Zeal for God

For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. (Rom 10:2)

 “I really believe that by sacrificing the sheep, we can have forgiveness. God says this in the Quran.” Ibrahim peacefully replied. Ibrahim is a friend of mine that puts his hope and life in the hands of the god of the Quran. He is my friend and it grieves me to see him willfully walk in darkness. Other of my Muslim friends try to attack the Bible and its teachings and I know they have no understanding of it’s light, the Lord Jesus Christ. Millions of Muslims are preparing for Ramadan, their holy month. The giant red lamps are out and people are talking about the heat wave here. Some are making plans to meet up and break the fast together. The Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset and then break the fast together with friends and family. They hope to gain Allah’s favor and seek his will in prayer. Some even take the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca where thousands walk around the Kaaba 7 times in order to gain forgiveness of sins for a year.

They have a zeal towards God, but no knowledge of the One God that had an eternal plan for their deliverance. They try to establish their own righteousness, but reject Jesus Christ our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Where is the hope? Are these that work an everyday job, want better for their families, hurt themselves to please the untrue god left without an opportunity to have life and that more abundantly?

The Father that had us in His mind and sacrificed His beloved Son has done His part. The Lord Jesus Christ is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He has done His part and the Holy Spirit is doing His. The God of the Bible has a zealous love for the world. He draws all to Himself and is working to seek and to save that which is lost. What is the problem? Where is the zeal for God’s glory in the life of the believers? Where is the passion to see His true righteousness established in those blinded by their dead works? Have we, as believers become more zealous about sports, politics, our rights, etc..? The lost sacrifice so much to gain paradise, when we have full access to the throne of God through the Lord Jesus.

I pray that we zealously and boldly preach Christ and disciple the saved and see a righteous zeal move our hearts to the lost. Christ is seeking to save that which was lost through His people. Will you commit yourself to His glory in the salvation of the lost around you?

Jesus, Our Advocate

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1).

  As the worshippers stepped into St. George Coptic Church in Tanta, Egypt, they came expecting to spend a peaceful and joyous time together at the Palm Sunday service. All was well, until a bomb exploded killing at least 27 and injuring 78 others. A similar attack killed 17, including 3 female officers at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria hours later. The scene was horrendous and the screams filled the streets with terror. We are still in shock and are grieved by the circumstances in Egypt. Isis claims responsibility and this comes as no surprise to those who know their reputation. The lives of the families of the victims forever changed in the midst of the chaos. We pray for comfort, strength and hope for these here. We do not know what will happen today or tomorrow and life is as short as a vapor (James 4:14). We must be prepared for eternity.

  The accuser of the brethren, Satan continually bombards believers and works to kill and destroy. The lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life causes even the strongest Christian to falter. We are in a war. Who gives us strength and protection? It is none other than Jesus Christ, the righteous. He is our only hope in the spiritual battle that rages against us. We sin, but we have peace with God through Jesus the only Mediator between God and man. We have Jesus that defends us as Advocate. We have Him speaking for us as our Intercessor. His blood cleanses and speaks for us before the throne of our Father. I am so thankful for His everlasting protection against the wiles of the devil.

  The battle is not against flesh and blood. The scenes of disaster from Palm Sunday are an outworking of the Destroyer and his principalities. We have to be equipped with all of who Christ is and what we have in Him. We then must live Him out in our actions and words. He is our victory in times of peace and war, and at the darkest of times, He is our Light.

  Pray as we lift up the Lord Jesus to battle against the tactics of the devil. Our Advocate is our victory and defense. We pray to claim the victory to see lives restored and dead come to life through the power of the Gospel.

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