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4 March 2015

Good evening! We've just flown home from a biblical training tour centered in the eastern Caribbean (Grenada, St. Vincent, and Trinidad). The Caribbean disciples' stamina for learning was impressive (12 classes from Friday evening till Sunday afternoon). All lessons were based on the letter of Titus. Although many of the 200+ who attended have been Christians 10-20 years, for most studying an entire book of the Bible in context was a new, and transformative, experience. All agree that this sort of training is essential if the brothers and sisters are to be mature and solid in their faith. From their comments, as well as the buzz in the fellowship, you could tell that people’s confidence in their ability to handle the word had taken a big leap since the inception of the program last summer. 

Kudos to Tyrone Marcus and Courtney Bailey, principal teachers in the Caribbean School of Ministry as well as family men and full-time lawyers. We are honored to work alongside them.

Neither intolerant nor exclusive

"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb" (Revelation 7:9).

In the previous bulletin we noted that "tolerance" has undergone a substantial shift in meaning in recent decades, from acceptance of persons to acceptance of ideas. We stressed that Christians ought to point out this change and challenge it, otherwise the common charge of bigotry may be difficult to shake. After all, we accept everybody, even if we don't agree with them. Besides, no one is tolerant of all ideas. Many critics of Christianity are highly intolerant of Christians.

We also explored ways in which Christianity is inclusive, not exclusive. Of course, by its very nature, all truth excludes error (truth and untruth cannot both be right). Yet Christ-followers are actually inclusive -- despite the negative message often conveyed in the media, and even in some of the seminary classes I have attended. In the spirit of 1 Timothy 2:4, we truly desire everyone to be saved, regardless of their background. In Christ, barriers are broken down, and the church itself (the body f Christ) is a powerful visual aid: people see that everyone is welcome, as the demographic prejudices of society melt away.

With these important considerations in mind, let's become all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:22), This means we need to aim to understand how others think and feel, including members of others religions. If we don't make an effort to understand world religions, how will the grand vision of Revelation 7:9 ever become a reality?

Like many of you, having lived for many years in large cities, I've been exposed to numerous cultures and faiths. My wife and I have resided in multiple countries, and I've been privileged to teach in most of the world's nations. This has forced me to wrestle with how to relate to Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, and others. One of my current jobs is teaching in an M.A. program in Bible and Theology (at Lincoln Christian University, along with my colleagues Steve Kinnard of New York and Glenn Giles of Denver). My field: World Religions, emphasis on Islam.

Take the Quiz!

How much do you know about Islam? As a university professor, I thought it might be interesting to start our series with a quiz about Islam and Muslims. Don't worry -- this little test is short and simple. But don't skip ahead; test yourself (2 Corinthians 13:5, way out of context)!
  1. Who founded Islam?   
  2. What is the name of the holy book of the Muslims?
  3. Where did Islam begin?   Albania, Arabia, or Algeria?
  4. When did Islam begin?   632 BC   232 AD   632 AD  
  5. Whom do Muslims worship as the only true god?    
  6. What language do most Muslims speak?
  7. Most Muslims live in the Middle East:   True or False?
  8. Muslims believe in Jesus' virgin birth and second coming:   True or False? 
  9. What does Islam teach must happen to a man who renounces his faith in Muhammad?
  10. What percentage of the planet is Muslim?
Here are the answers.
  1. The founder is, of course, Muhammad, who recited
  2. the Qur'an (also spelled Koran).
  3. The new religion began in Arabia,
  4. in the 7th century AD.
  5. The one true god is Allah. Most of us probably got the first 5 questions right. But how about the next 5?
  6. Only a minority of Muslims speak Arabic. Most speak Indonesian, Bengali, Urdu, Turkish, Farsi, and a few other tongues.
  7. Most do not live in the Middle East. In fact, over half live in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
  8. The Qur'an does indeed affirm Jesus' virgin birth, second coming, and miracles -- even that he is the Word of God.
  9. All major schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach that any male who apostatizes must be executed. (Some allow a lesser penalty, like life imprisonment, for a female.)
  10. Most importantly (for the purposes of this quiz), nearly 25% of the planet is Muslim. One in four persons!
So how did you do? 50%? 80% 100%? Does your score indicate understanding, or lack of understanding, of our Muslim neighbors? 

In this short series, let's respectfully consider the major faith traditions of the world. It will be vital to avoid sensationalism, and to get at the facts. The point isn't to insulate ourselves against Islam or discredit Muslims. As believers in Christ, we mustn't push outsiders away, but to reach out and connect -- to pull Muslims close! 

To be continued...
Thank you
Finally, we'd like to express our gratitude for the recent increase in donations. The spike in giving, including several new monthly sponsors, is moving us closer to our goal of full financial support. 

Thanks for believing in this ministry.

Yours in Him,
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