RAMADAN 2016 (June 6 - July 5)

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WHY IS RAMADAN IMPORTANT IN THE ISLAMIC FAITH?
Ramadan celebrates the first revelations that Mohammad received. The purpose of the Ramadan season is to take Muslims away from their normal lifestyle and make them re-examine their life in the context of a higher ideal. For example, experiencing hunger makes you more aware of the poor; and going through real, but limited suffering, may prepare you for tougher ordeals. The feeling of community is very strong during Ramadan.

WHAT ARE MUSLIMS EXPECTED TO DO DURING RAMADAN?
All Muslims, except children under the age of 12, pregnant or nursing mothers, the frail, aged and ill, must abstain from eating food, smoking, and drinking (even water), among other restrictions, during daylight hours.

WHAT ARE THE DATES OF RAMADAN BASED ON? WHY DO THEY CHANGE?
The dates of Ramadan are established according to the Islamic lunar calendar, which has 354 days. The months are divided into lunar months which have 29-30 days each. Each day begins at sunset (not midnight). The fasting period normally begins and ends with the sighting of the crescent moon, which is different each year.

WHAT BASIC INFORMATION ABOUT ISLAM DO I NEED TO KNOW?
»» The word Islam simply means “submission to the will of Allah.” And Allah is the God of Islam.
»» Islam is a monotheistic religion that arose in the 7th century under the leadership of Mohammed.
»» Mohammed is considered to be the ‘ideal man’, but is not considered divine.
»» Members of Islam are called Muslims, meaning ‘those who submit’.
»» Islam involves both beliefs (“The Five Doctrines of Islam”) and obligations (“The Five Pillars of Islam”).

WHAT ARE THE MAIN SECTS OF ISLAM?
»» Sunnis, the majority of Muslims, are followers of Abu Bakr as Muhammad’s successor. Sunnis feel that no man or holy man need come between a person and his God.
»» Shiites are followers of the Prophet Mohammad’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali. An Imam, a holy man, acts as an intermediary between Muslims and God.
»» Sufis are a small group of Muslims who seek to find the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience with God.

WHAT ARE THE FIVE THINGS A DEVOUT MUSLIM MUST DO IN HIS LIFE (CALLED THE PILLARS OF ISLAM)?
1) Recite the creed, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.” (Shahada)
2) Daily prayers, (Salat) five times a day, at specific times.
3) Give to the poor. (Zakat)
4) Fast, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. (Sawim)
5) Make the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least once in their lifetime. (Hajj)

WHAT DO MUSLIMS BELIEVE IN? (THE FIVE DOCTRINES OF ISLAM)
»» One God, the Creator of all things (no trinity)
»» Angels and evil spirits
»» Prophets, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jonah, Jesus and Mohammed (note: they consider Jesus a prophet)
»» Holy books, including the Torah, Zabur (Psalms), Injil (Gospel) and the Quran
»» The Day of Judgment for all people

WHAT ARE SOME MUSLIM IDEAS ABOUT JESUS?
1) Jesus is only a prophet, he is not divine (not the Son of God, not God in the flesh)
2) Jesus did not die on the cross. He instead went directly to heaven.
3) Jesus was conceived miraculously by God in the womb of virgin Mary
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Creation Story

In January, three couples sat in an apartment reading the Creation story from Genesis 1. This was especially exciting because one of the ladies had recently declared faith in Christ over Christmas, and this was the first time she and her yet-unbelieving husband were sitting to study the Bible together. She had previously expressed much interest in Christ, yet was hesitant to explore too deep before her husband was more willing to explore with her. Her inner prayer was answered as her husband began to connect with a group of believers after Christmas, and readily accepted their invitation to study the Bible together. The husband attentively participated in that first gathering, and his wife’s excitement was obvious.

After the Scripture reading, she summarized the passage aloud, noting the purpose of humanity’s creation was for people to be in relationship with their Creator. This quickly blossomed into a full gospel message from a lady who was barely two weeks old in her faith. The group leader considered stopping her, thinking it may be too soon, too fast for her husband, but the Holy Spirit settled them with His peace of approval to let her continue declaring the good news of how a relationship with God is possible through Jesus Christ.

Please pray that her husband will hear the Word of the Lord and accept the new life He brings, just as His spoken word brought all life into existence.
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Wisdom in Scripture

A group of lranian Christian ladies travelled to another city to hear from a guest teacher; a lady who spoke Farsi. They had listened to other guest teachers before, but most were Farsi-speaking men, or English-speaking ladies teaching through a male translator. So, now was their opportunity to talk directly with a mature lady believer and they discussed important issues with her that they were not totally comfortable discussing with the men. Abortion. Same-sex attraction. Do I have to delay my baptism if I have my period? Can I remarry if I’m divorced? Can I marry a non-Christian?

The lady teacher pointed them to the Scriptures that helped them see God’s perspective on these issues. But perhaps the greatest thing one young lady learned, was from nothing the teacher had said. The young lranian lady looked at all the clothes she had packed along for this trip, and thought about the teacher’s modest clothes. The young lranian shamefully concluded on her own that there was only one outfit that she brought that met a suitable level of modesty for a believer.

Please pray that these lady believers would seek to glorify God in their femininity and that they would have a godly influence on their culture.
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God you are enthroned in majesty above the cherubim in heaven.  And You are God of all the kingdoms of the earth.  You made the heavens and the earth.  Listen closely, LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, LORD, and see.  The Persians in Iran are seeking truth.  Islam is completely hollow and their hearts are vacant.  Open their eyes and ears so they might turn their hearts to You.  Save them by the thousands, filling the void in their lives.

LORD, You know how hopeless the people in Iran feel.  They are longing for a change.  I hear them wish for war to come to their country to bring such a change.  They need to know that true hope and peace can only be found in you.  Many Persians are turning to drugs.  Put an end to the corruption that allows so many drugs to come from the fields in Afghanistan.  Young women and girls struggle with eating disorders and depression.  Show them how You view them – beautiful creations.  Help them to find lasting, inner beauty in Christ.

The new believers in Iran struggle with fear.  They don’t know how to explain their new faith to family and friends.  They are afraid of how they’ll be received.  They are reluctant to meet with other believers – “what if they are secret police or radical Muslims posing as believers?”  Give them courage and boldness.  Provide safe places for new believers to meet.  Start many churches throughout the country that are firmly grounded on the truth found only in the Bible.  God, the young Persian Church that does exist needs your help.  Help believers to let go of worldly habits.  Help them to trust one another and to cooperate, growing together in love and unity.

Thank you, Jesus, for paying the high price to provide forgiveness for our sin.  The Persians are direct descendants of groups that first heard this Good News at Pentecost in the Book of Acts.  (the Elamites, Acts 2)  Renew their desire to follow you.

Help me to see the Persians as you see them.  Show me what I can do in order for them to hear the Gospel.  Give me opportunities to share my faith with Persians.  Teach me how to pray consistently for them.

Build Your church in Iran and use the Persians so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD God – you alone!  

(inspired partially by 2 Kings 19:14-37)
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Holy Imams and Their Influence on Persecution

In Iran Shia Islam is the state religion. Unlike the Sunni’s, the other big denomination, Shia Muslims believe that all leaders in Islam should be related to their prophet Mohammed. After Mohammed, they counted eleven successors; many of whose graves are pilgrimage sites. The twelfth Imam, the Mahdi, mysteriously disappeared in the ninth century and probably the most worshipped among the Imams. Because it is believed that he’s still alive and around, Shia Muslims didn’t appoint a new leader. Instead they depend on their ‘hidden Imam’ to take care of them and expect him back to restore peace and justice on earth, prophet Jesus is believed to accompany him that day. This expectation is very real to many Iranians and plays a role in many political decisions as well. Religious leaders as well as political leaders believe that Iran should prepare itself, and the whole world, for the return of the Mahdi by making the country as pure Shia Islamic as possible, only then the Mahdi will return. Anything hasting the return of the twelfth Imam is justified. According to one of the religious leaders, ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi this means that getting rid of ‘unclean’ Christians, even killing them, is justified. Muslims who insult Islam, or even worse; convert to Christianity should, according to this extremist ayatollah, be killed without a court case.
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Denial and Confession

Being interrogated by the authorities for 4 hours, the lady was nervous, but she confidently denied all their accusations. Even when they accused her of becoming a Christian, she said, “No”.

Yet, after she was released from the interrogation, she continued witnessing her recent faith in Christ, and recently afterwards 2 more of her friends started studying the Bible together with her and decided to follow Jesus themselves. The next time she met with her mature Christian friend for her own discipleship meeting, she told the story of her interrogation, denial, and release.

As the story was told without any remorse, her mature friend gently turned in the Bible to study Matthew chapter 10, when the Lord sends out his 12 disciples with instructions and a warning in verse 32 that “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” The younger lady humbly received this message and confessed that she had denied Christ because of fear for her child’s life. She was especially impacted by verse 37, “he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” She repented of literally loving her child more than Jesus.

Please pray for her and her husband that they would continue to trust God unashamedly with their new life in Christ.
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Worship, Belief and a Picnic

The weather was wonderfully cool for the lranian house church of a certain city to have a picnic in the park, joined by a traveling businessman and his cousin. The businessman eagerly connects with the house church whenever business takes him to their city, since his small home town has no other believers that he knows of. His cousin had hungrily watched all the Christian videos he had on his phone, so now he wanted to introduce him to the house church. During the picnic, the other believers gave the cousin a bible and read passages with him, explaining the good news to him. By the end of the picnic, the traveling businessman had a new brother in Christ.

The Christian population of his small home town had just doubled – from one to two!