Abu Da'ud

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A bare willow tree

Pressure comes in life, sometimes stripping us bare. It can be persecution, pandemic or a panoply of crises. What are we to think, to do?

My neighbor’s willow tree reminded me of answers I’d learned long ago. In late summer and fall, it had gorgeous branches full of green leaves that would sway happily in the breeze. The tree looked like it was enjoying life and its freedom.

Then the seasons changed. Men came and cut off all its branches, stripping it down to the nub. It became a bare tree. To add insult to injury, when the rains came and fell on the exposed cuts, the bright wood began to dull and become gray. Everything that seemed to have so much function and beauty now looked like a dead pole stuck in the ground.

On some days, the pole looked like it was simply numb, feeling nothing. On other days, it seemed to want to rage at the sky, saying, “Why did you do this to me?”

We seem to ask the same questions when pressure comes, when things are taken that we value or even treasure. We experience many powerful, often negative emotions. We probably, like the willow, cannot fully see what is happening.

We can learn answers from the willow in spring. Slowly, little green shoots appear. They turn into branches, which quickly erupt with leaves. The tree looks even bigger than before.

God does not send calamity, but will often use it to prune us so that we can bear more leaves, more fruit (John 15). Rather than shut down, fear or rage at God and each other, we can reach out to God with thanks for the change in season and what He will accomplish in and through us. We can reach out to others in love rather than take out on them our frustration from thwarted expectations.

God is still in control, and loves you thoroughly. He is for you and with you. Be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world that threatens you. He gives grace and mercy for times like these. You, like the willow, may be experiencing a change in seasons, but please remember and trust that God is still Lord of the seasons

Keywords: seasons, change, trust

Crises sometime contain tests

Maybe because my major crises started in college, crises often seemed like tests. The good thing is that the questions were usually the same, and I learned, by grace, to ask for the right posture, if you will, to pass the test. I also learned to repent and return to God where I missed a question.

Here are the questions:

Where is your faith? (In what or who am I putting my trust/belief?)

In whom do you trust?

Faith or fear?

Wisdom or panic?

Compassion or judgment?

Focused or frazzled?

Eyes on the King and His kingdom (and associated tasks) or distracted?

Fretting or listening to Him? (Martha or Mary?)

How’d you do? The questions are a self-test, and the answers are between you and God.

Regardless of the answer, please read all of the referenced passage, which contains God’s call to come to Him so that He could give you rest (Matt 11:28-30)

He loves you and will always take care of you. Also, His way is always the best. When you feel unduly burdened, cast your care on Him because He cares for you.

My after-test (and sometimes in-test) prayers were often something along the lines of, “I’m sorry for doing this wrong, I don’t know how to change, but want to, and I believe You’ll help me. Please help.” Not a long prayer, but one that was always answered by our good God. The answer may have looked different than expected, and sometimes not quickly, but it always came.

Keywords: Discipleship, testing

44% of the unreached people groups in North America are Muslim

Interested in Muslim ministry but don’t feel led to go overseas? If you are in North America, you don’t have to. 44% of the unreached people (simply put, people who speak a certain language and have an indigenous population less than 2% Christian) in North America are Muslim and live in major cities.

Global Gates has an informative graphic that shows this and more. I recommend it to you. Please click on the link in the box below:

Keywords: Demographics, Global Gates, unreached people groups, Muslim

A temptation for the heart of the persecuted

The persecuted and MBBs often face rejection. The resulting pain presents a difficult temptation – closing their hearts. They may feel that closing their hearts will lessen the pain, but it actually causes an inability to feel. 

When they cannot feel, joys disappear, while wounding continues. In most cases, that wounding creates deep hurts that negatively affect behavior. That bad behavior seems to be random because the person’s closed heart cannot feel the pain nor discern its cause. Monitoring capacity is lost unless the persecuted re-open their hearts. 

How can an MBBs keep an open heart? It’s through trusting God and receiving His inimitable love in Christ. A part of that is being part of the local church, or even starting small groups and churches. God often uses others to bring healing, and then love can be felt again. 

Explanation of how to receive God’s love, healing, and how to evangelize, disciple and start small groups and churches can be found in my book, Discipling Muslim Background Believers, for sale on this site and also on Amazon. 

Keywords: Persecuted, MBB, keeping heart open

MBB identity is not based on performance

MBBs need to know that the extent of their obedience and performance, even good works from a pure heart, are not their identity in Christ. 

Christians are children of God, and their identity is a gift – given at salvation. What they do is different than who they are. God loves them because they are His. He does invite them to work with Him, but that is not why He loves them. 

MBBs, as well as all Christians, should ensure that they are doing the right things for the right reasons. To do so requires hearing the Holy Spirit, knowing God’s character and the new covenant. Learning how to do these three things, as well as many others, is covered in my book, Discipling Muslim Background Believers.

Keywords: MBB discipleship, identity, performance