Middle East


prodigal daughter Someone recently asked me what my greatest fear is. Immediately I knew…

“That my life will not matter. That I will waste it.”

This is my greatest fear because I am routinely tripped up by habits and patterns of defeat.  I have allowed old lies to quench the fresh power of the Gospel in my heart and mind. Why can’t I just believe God and obey?
I’ve been an easy mark for the enemy. I don’t put up much of a fight. He knows my wounds and knows there are STILL parts of my heart that are not whole.

A little over a year ago I was in the Middle East serving alongside godly men and women who have given their lives in service to the Gospel. During that trip, an attack on some of our team members was evident and I was not prepared (spiritually) for my personal assault. A bitter root had grown in my heart and I foolishly did not rip it out the minute it took hold. One morning, around 3 a.m. I awoke to a familiar sound. It was different this time – I truly felt the enemy “singing” over me and it penetrated my soul. He was taunting me.  I never really talked about it or prayed about it -but I should have.

God knew where I was about to go- He knew my failures before I knew them. Yet in His GRACE He planned an escape route, deep healing, new purpose, godly guidance, financial provision and specific scripture – all in a matter of days – all waiting for me on the other side. Fully restored, fully cleansed and fully forgiven. I only had to reach out and take it! Jesus had already paid my debt and I am in awe.

I am still in the midst of this battle but I am praying the armor – fighting again and praying for WHOLENESS. Pray for me that God will not let me waste this experience. I am determined to stop living in defeat. But I (obviously) cannot do it in my own power. I have tried and I have failed and failed and failed…You’d think I would get the hint by now!

But I am HOPEFUL! Trust me…I have cause to be full of hope because of what I am learning about myself and what God’s word promises. I want FREEDOM!!!!

“Don’t be afraid that your life will end,
be afraid that it will never begin.”

Grace Hansen

 

There are so many things today that make my heart heavy The stories out of India of the believers in Orissa having their homes and churches burned by Hindu radicals. The advent of Ramadan and the lostness of 1.3 billion Muslims. My friends suffering overseas in closed, Musilm countries and right here at home a friend’s family being attacked by the enemy.

What makes my heart the heaviest is my lack of prayer for all of them. It is so easy to pretend that the details of my comfortable life are somehow more important than their need of my prayers. God have mercy on my prayerlessness and faithlessness. Awaken my soul to the leadings of Your Spirit and help me to throw off all of the things of this world that hinder. 

Download Ramadan Prayer Guide >>

I am learning all sorts of things about Middle Eastern culture. As one author put it,

“The Bible is not a Western book. Yes it is Pan-Cultural and the truths apply to all peoples, but the origins, stories and forms are eastern.” 

“A Muslim’s Heart” by Edward Hoskins

It is fascinating! The more I learn the more I realize the biases through which I have been internalizing scripture. In the Bible, when people’s reactions don’t add up I tend to skip over certain passages. I often do not understand the way some people react and it puzzles me. Reactions that seem cryptic to me are now making more sense as I learn about about the Eastern mentality. 

Punctuality 
For example, in Eastern society punctuality is not important. If I had dinner plans with a friend across town and an unexpected guest dropped by my house, it would be rude to leave the unexpected guest! So even if I was 3 hours late, the friend I was meeting across town would not be offended and would even assume that I had had an unexpected guest drop by!

Being late is (to me) the ultimate insult. It’s like saying, “You weren’t important enough to be on time for.” However, in Eastern cultures they believe “only servants arrive on time. Being 15 to 30 minutes late is actually preferred.” 

Honor
For a Muslim, honor or “saving face” is everything. “It is more important than logic, truth and life itself.”
Sin is not taken as seriously as in the West. While Westerners view sin as an internal, moral failure, those in the East view sin as wrong but not as bad as getting caught in the sin!

One Biblical example is when Moses is giving his farewell address to the Israelites in Deu 3: 23-26. He says,

“At that time I pleaded with the LORD : “O Sovereign LORD, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.” But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the LORD said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.”

Two other times in Deuteronomy Moses puts the blame on the Israelites and not in himself. In Eastern cultures, blame-shifting is an art. 

Hospitality
If you visit a friend’s home and admire something they own they feel obligated to give it to you!
If I take home leftovers in a container I must replace it with some other food when I return it. 

Sencerity
Repitition is very important in the East. (Just like when Jesus and the Lord repeat things three times throughout scripture.) If I say something once it means I don’t really mean it and I am just being polite. I have to repeat something at least two or three times to be taken seriously! 

In the East, if someone invites me over to their house and they only ask once then they really don’t want me to come. It would be very rude for me to stop by.

I am not in any way insinuating that Western culture is better. I write about this only to share what I am learning and hopefully to better understand my new friends. To people in the Middle East we seem cold and unfriendly. It is strange to them that we do not smile at strangers or invite them to our homes for a meal. They are extremely loyal to extended family and to be alone is completely foreign to them. Of course you would want to live close to as many members of your family for as long as you can! In the West we tend to only be very close to our nuclear families and only see extended family on holidays.

I have much to learn…
(Most of what I have shared can be found in the aforementioned book by Hoskins.) 

 

 

Muslim Woman in Niqab

“Then the angel of the LORD told [Hagar], “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”The angel of the LORD also said to her:

“You are now with child
and you will have a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the LORD has heard of your misery.

He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward all his brothers.”

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi…”

Genesis 16:9-14

Hagar. When I think of her I usually think, “What a sad situation she was in.” Already a slave she was asked to sleep with her master and bare him a son because he and his wife could not conceive. I thought of Sarah and how she and Abraham did not trust that God would fulfill His promise of the son of promise (Isaac).

When the true son did come, Ishmael became a threat in Sarah’s eyes. So she ordered Abraham to send he and his mother away-somewhere far away where they would never again remind her of her own faithlessness and unbelief.

I felt sorry for Hagar but I didn’t really like her. I thought of her as a schemer maybe and was a little bothered by the fact that she would have slept with another woman’s husband. ( I know the culture was different but they must have known it was wrong…?) I guess I thought poorly of her and felt a little like she “got what she deserved.” After all, the arab nations came from Ishmael as God promised…and I didn’t trust them either, right?

But after reading her story with fresh perspective from the Holy Spirit I see now that I had never seen her at all. So this is the Hagar I see today:

A Slave: She had to do what Sarah asked, didn’t she? I am sure she felt she had no choice but to obey.

A Woman: She had no husband. She was dishonored in that society for being unmarried. If it had been me I might have been thinking,” Well, at least if I am sleeping with Abraham I might get more respect around here, especially if I bare his child.”

A Daughter: This is when God reveals Himself to her. Hagar says, “This is the God who SEES ME.” Had Hagar felt that she had never truly been “seen” in her entire life? She was now no longer invisible. Finally, Someone had seen her but moreover this Someone had shown love and protection for she and her child. Oh Father, you are always the one who sees and delivers 🙂

A Mother: After learning she was pregnant she probably felt that her life was meaningful now. Scripture says she despised Sarah (Gen 16:4) after learning she was pregnant and there is no doubt Sarah despised her! She treated Hagar so badly that Hagar fled to get away from her. And in the wilderness as her teenage son lay dying she cries out again to the One Who Sees for salvation. And He answers.

Tears streamed down my face as I read her story again, this time God answering my prayer to give me a heart for Muslim women. These women who are hidden away in houses and treated as less than a whole person. These women who live their lives in seclusion and fear. These women who have no rights are covered until they are no longer visible to society or to the world. Oh God help them to see that the same eyes that saw Hagar in the desert sees them now in that same desert land thousands of years later!

In visions, in dreams and in their hearts. Open their eyes to see the well of Living Water.

Civil War in Lebanon over 53 100 dead
Cyclone in Myanmar 34,000 100,000 dead
Earthquake in China 9000  50,000 dead

And God is a merciful God? A loving God? Yes.

“Every deadly calamity is a merciful call from God for the living to repent. That was Jesus’ stunning statement to those who brought him news of calamity. The tower of Siloam had fallen, and 18 people were crushed. What about this, Jesus? they asked. He answered, “Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4-5).

The point of every deadly calamity is this: Repent. Let our hearts be broken that God means so little to us. Grieve that he is a whipping boy to be blamed for pain, but not praised for pleasure. Lament that he makes headlines only when man mocks his power, but no headlines for ten thousand days of wrath withheld. Let us rend our hearts that we love life more than we love Jesus Christ. Let us cast ourselves on the mercy of our Maker. He offers it through the death and resurrection of his Son.

This is the point of all pleasure and all pain. Pleasure says: “God is like this, only better; don’t make an idol out of me. I only point to him.” Pain says: “What sin deserves is like this, only worse; don’t take offense at me. I am a merciful warning.”

-John Piper

3As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

4Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,[a]’ and will deceive many. 6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are the beginning of birth pains.

9″Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Jesus
Mathew 24:8-14