Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of His Servant?

Thoughts

Spanking Kids and Common Sense/Eperience

I don’t have much time these days to write blogs, but this issue definitely caught my attention.   Here is a blog from John Stackhouse on this subject: Now You Can Finally Stop Hitting Your Kids.  The title says it all.

It is apparently based on a Canadian study.  One article dealing with this study can be found  here.  Here are a few relevant excerpts:

“We’re really past the point of calling this [spanking] a controversy. That’s a word that’s used and I don’t know why, because in the research there really is no controversy,” she said in an interview…”If we had this level of consistency in findings in any other area of health, we would be acting on it. We’d be pulling out all the stops to work on the issue.”

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EASTER GREETINGS from the EMPTY TOMB

Here are some greetings (only 2 minutes) from the empty tomb from Dr. Bryan Chapell, author of Christ-Centered Preaching .

HAPPY RESURRECTION SUNDAY to all!
Pastor Cris


Democracy and ISLAM

A relevant and urgent question often heard today is this: Is DEMOCRACY possible in Islam? The answer is rather simple: NO! Democracy is not possible and I can easily prove it by “sample A” – the impossibility of religious freedom
in a truly Islamic country.

The fact is that it is impossible to have religious freedom (the right to choose and change your religion as you wish) in a truly Islamic country! This cannot and should not be denied and there are countless examples to prove this. I will mention a very recent example still in the news (actually – largely ignored my mainstream media) and then I will exhibit some stats and facts to understand how Muslims think about religious freedom and democracy.

Note the following recent news from Afghanistan:

“In Afghanistan, where the Christian population is almost non-existent, one Christian is on the verge of execution by the government. His crime? Conversion from Islam to Christianity. Said (or Sayed) Musa was among 25 Christians arrested last May, four days after their Christian worship service was featured on Noorin TV, according to Paul Marshall, a religious freedom expert who has co-authored with Nina Shea the forthcoming book, “Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide” (October 2011).

[This is a book that I suspect will eloquently argue the same point and I hope to read it when it comes out! Meanwhile you may take a look at this excellent book by Samuel Zwemer: The Law of Apostasy in Islam. You can download it for free – written by a great Muslim scholar who taught at Princeton early in the 20th century.]

Writing for National Review Online, Marshall summarized the brutality experienced by Musa since his arrest: beatings, sexual assault and sleep deprivation. A letter from Musa has been smuggled to the West detailing his peril.

The Afghan government is defiant, insisting that citizens who convert from Islam to Christianity must be punished with death.”

For other specific cases of conversion in Muslim countries see here.

Now here are some recent stats from Egypt which show a real schizophrenia, or perhaps a simple lack of understanding of what religious freedom means.

When asked about the death penalty (see here) for those who leave the Muslim religion 84% of Muslims in Egypt said they would favor making it the law (this is 86% in Jordan which is considered a moderate Muslim country, but has the death penalty for apostasy!), 74% in Pakistan etc. What makes it schizophrenic is the fact that 59 % of Egyptians said that democracy is preferable to any other kind of government and about 85% said that they favor religious freedom (I cannot find the source but I remember reading that the number was very similar with that of Muslims who favor death penalty for those who leave Islam).

Now – how can you be in favor of religious freedom and also in favor of the death penalty for those who leave Islam??? Clearly there is a problem here, though I assume that those Egyptians don’t see the contradiction. The fact is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to hold both views, and the Muslims in Muslim countries overwhelmingly are for the death penalty for someone who leaves Islam =) there can be no democracy in a truly Islamic country.

For – if you cannot chose/change your religion without fear of being killed, there is no freedom and there is no true democracy. It is sad, but true!

[I would love to be proved wrong!

For those who think that Turkey is a model for Islamic democracy, please note that Turkey achieved some form of democracy as a secular state and they have clear cases of minority discrimination. See also the news below about two cases of conversion to Christianity.

On 18 April 2007, two Turkish converts to Christianity, Necati Aydin and Uğur Yüksel, were killed in the Malatya bible publishing firm murders. Having tortured them for several hours, the attackers then slit their throats. The attackers stated that they did it in order to defend the state and their religion. The government and other officials in Turkey had in the past criticized Christian missionary work, while the European Union has called for more freedom for the Christian minority.

For the view that death penalty for apostasy is not Islamic, see here.]


Progress after 5 Weeks – ACL, Meniscus, and PLRI Surgery

Today there are 5 weeks after my operation. My ACL was reconstructed, my meniscus was repaired, and another ligament was reconstructed (PLRI?). They found out that this other ligament was (partially?) torn when they introduced the arthroscope (with a small camera) before the operation. For my ACL they used some of my hamstring for the replacement, while for the PLRI (?) they used an allograft (ligament from a dead guy L). That means I am now partially Korean! J

The first week was in a way the hardest, but it wasn’t terrible because I was sedated fairly well! J

I would say that the hardest thing during this whole process was the lack of sleep during the night. While this was no doubt due to the fact that I was sleeping during the day a few hours (what else can you do when you are in bed all day?), even when I skipped the daily naps (after 3-4 weeks) I had a hard time sleeping through the night. It was not because of pain. I was never in major pain, but it was uncomfortable to sleep with the knee brace and I just could not sleep well.

There were nights when I slept less than 3 hours (though I would sleep a few hours in the morning) and I am still having a hard time getting a decent night sleep, despite the fact that I sometimes take sleep medicine (doesn’t seem to have much effect). It is not prescription medicine.

At the five week point, my knee is still a bit swollen (and also my ankle), but I can bend my knee to about 120 degrees.

Next week I am supposed to get rid of the crutches. Praise the Lord.

I feel that I could walk without them now (?), but I will take it easy and follow the doctor’s advice.

For the past two weeks I have been preaching sitting on a chair for the first service (http://www.hcc.or.kr/worship1_2.asp; I am the nameless guy :)), and standing (on one leg) for the second (this is not recorded)!  So far so good!  I did not think the first time that I can stand in one leg for the whole sermon! Miracles are possible! 🙂

Over all – the recovery process is long and painful (the strengthening exercises are a bit painful for a person with terrible flexibility like me)! I hope and pray, however, that things will get better soon.

I can’t wait to walk without crutches and I hope and pray with many that the meniscus is healing well and the reconstructions are successful.

The surgery (with the roughly $1600 for the allograft) cost me about $5000. This is after the help/support from the national insurance. I just found out that my private insurance just paid about $3000, and they may pay a bit more after I give them the receipt from the allograft (that was only partially paid). In any case – so far I am happy that I may end up with less than $2000 from my own pocket. Praise the Lord!

Please pray for me so I can play in Brazil 2014!!! J

Well – really – play that I can be back to normal by 2012!

Thank you and many blessings to all!

Cristian R


Time to Quit FACEBOOK???

I just read a very convicting article by Jonathan Dodson for deleting my FACEBOOK account!

The one that I find the most compelling (and kind of scary!) is the following:

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Disturb us, Lord

A few Romanian blogs (see Vasilica Croitor and Danut Manastireanu) picked up and translated a great prayer by Sir Francis Drake (1577).   I like it a lot and I found it in English here. Here is the text:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Francis Drake,�an adventurer and essentially a legal pirate (What else�is a second son supposed to do to make a living?), wrote this prayer as he departed Portsmouth on the Golden Hind to raid Spanish gold on the west coast of South America. He ventured at least as far north as the non-Spanish parts of�California, claiming it as “New Albion” – New England- and returned to his Queen (the long way – via circumnavigation)�with loot worth over a half million pounds sterling, and received his Knighthood for it.

I hope you enjoy it too.  Many (most of the?) times I do need to be disturbed by the Lord from my complacency.

Below is the Romanian version recited wonderfully by Emil Bartosh!


Charles Bridges on Wisdom Literature – Proverbs 8

I love Charles Bridges on Proverbs and Ecclesiastes . They are true classics.

Of course – his understanding of Wisdom is fully Christological. The following is an excellent example from Proverbs 8.

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The Beginning of Wisdom

As I am preparing to teach Proverbs I try to search for wisdom as much as I can.  Wisdom has always fascinated me, not only because I am missing it (:)), but also because I am attracted by sages.

Sometimes wisdom is found in unlikely places.  This time I found some with Leon Kass who was born to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe (maybe Romania?). He wrote a book that caught my attention: The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis.

While I have not read the whole book, what he says in the introduction shows me that he is a wise man. He understands what many intelligent and scientifically minded people have missed.

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Back in Town…

After a very long break (traveling from Detroit to Phoenix via Chicago, Madison, St. Paul, Sioux Falls, Jackson, Ft. Collins, Denver, Santa Fe…) I am back in town (well – my parents’ town).

It was not the easiest thing to travel with 2 small kids, but it was certainly fun and educational.

USA is a great and beautiful country – especially the places we had a chance to visit.

The following are just a few of the highlights: a great boat trip on Chicago river with Mike Barak, driving through Wisconsin and Minnesota, Mt. Rushmore (South Dakota), Jackson (WY) and Yellostone, and Estes Park in CO.

Should I have a choice for a summer ranch – I would definitely choose Teton Village in Wyoming…Wyoming also looks  great for hunting (I must have seen over 200 deer – including their relatives) and fishing…God’s creation is just amazing, especially in Wyoming, Colorada, etc.

Isaiah loves fishing (we just went again [after Estes Park] a couple of days ago in AZ) and we love eating the fish that my wife cooks (honey – I promise next time we will catch enough so you can eat too :))!

Seeing Craig Huston was a highlight.  Craig was my roommate for about 4 years in college and is now working for HP in Fort Collins.  Unfortunately, he has 2 broken toes from his latest climbing trip…but he will still go on a mission/ministry trip to Greenland! For me – Craig is a true symbol of the hard working American, and humble Christian worker.  Praise the Lord.

The highlight – however – was my brief visit to Bethlehem Baptist Church where I took some pictures and (more important) I bought some good books.

I hope to share soon some of the good books that I got there.  For a starter, see The Trials of Theology. Only the Luther’s chapter on oratio – meditatio – tentatio is well worth the price of the book.

I am writing from an air conditioned library in Peoria, AZ…for without AC, you are a dead man in AZ! 🙂

Trying to catch up on some of my studies and research…before our next trout fishing trip next Monday (or Tuesday?).  Now that I got two new rods (one broke last week as I caught a trout less than 2 lbs!!!) with insurance (they will replace it if it breaks in 2 years :)) – I think we are ready to fish (even if it is in a trout farm)! OF course – the trout farm is for Isaiah, not for an experienced fisherman like me! 🙂

Isaiah: When are we going to fisherman? Of course – he is the fisherman! 🙂


Which Tribe Are You In?

I just listened to a very useful podcast from Michael Duduit.

It is an interview with George Barna about one of his latest books: The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe, and Why They Matter.

The tribe of most concern to me (as a teacher and pastor) is the Christian one (the rest are of secondary interest).  Unfortunately, the Christian tribe is split in two: the casual Christians (67%) and the “captive Christians” (only 16%).  The former group consists of Christians “who would not cross the street” to share the gospel with an unbeliever.  It is a group which “is not excited about sharing their religious belief…”  They do not create their lifestyle around their faith, rather let their faith “sip into their lifestyle.”

Wow.  What a challenge (weighty errand – to use Spurgeon’s expression) for pastors who stand up in their churches every week and preach to a large percentage of “casual Christians.” The goal must be to get the casual Christians become “captive Christians” (these are Christians who are really serious and knowledgable about their faith).  These are the ones “caricatured in the media, for whom their faith is everything.”

But who is adequate for this task?  No one.  Apart from the grace of God and the power of the Spirit we have no chance of success!  How great is the need for prayer before preaching and reaching out!  Please pray for your pastor, he needs a lot of help from above!

Which tribe are you from?  Listen to this podcast (if you don’t buy the book).  It may be eye opening!

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FORMATIO – Ancient Christian Devotional

I am excited about a new book I just bought:   Ancient Christian Devotional (Lectionary Cycle C).

This book is from the InterVarsity Press FORMATIO series (Tradition – Experience – Transformation).

FORMATIO books from InterVarsity Press are about “being transformed by Christ and conformed to his image,” and they intend to integrate God’s Word with spiritual practice by prompting its readers “to move from inward change to outward witness.”

“We believe that each of us is made with a deep desire to be in God’s presence.  Formatio books are intended to help “fulfill  our deepest desires and to become our true selves in light of God’s grace.”

I must say that the goals of the FORMATION series are most worthy, and I am looking forward to ‘swimming’ in this book.  After all, St. Chrysostom gives very good advice (quoted on the first page of this book):

Listen carefully to me.  Procure books [of the Bible] that will be medicines for the soul….Don’t simply dive into them.  Swim in them.  Keep them constantly in your mind.  (Homilies on Colossians 9)

This is a book  for Christians who lack the grounding in the riches of church history…who are rootless and are drifting in a barren secular and ecclesiastical landscape.

If you are one of those – consider this book to get rooted in the WORD!

Pastor Chris


On PRIDE and HUMILITY

One of the best commentaries (and a true classic) on the book of Proverbs is the one by Charles Bridges.

You can download it for free here .

Here are his excellent comments on Proverbs 18:12 – Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.

We have had both of these proverbs separately (16:18; 15:33).  Surely this repetition was intended to deepen our sense of their importance.  It is hard to persuade a man that he is proud.  Everyone protests against this sin.

Yet who does not cherish the viper in his own heart?

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Creation and Evolution

The more I read articles related to evolution, the more puzzled and amused I become.  Here is a recent article on a new Burmese fossil from Foxnews. The article is a series of contradictions by world-leading scientists about what they actually found. I will let you read it. I find it very funny, because they do not seem to agree on anything! How surprising!

I use this post, however, to point my readers to this excellent site about creation and evolution. It is written by people who have a much better understanding of the issues related to biology (my critique and reading of the  article mentioned above is simply that of a college educated reader with no expertize in biology – I assume that is the intended audience).

The people at CREV are really well read, they know what they are talking about, and they are very funny. I find their analysis of every current issue related to creation and evolution excellent. Enjoy! I would be surprised if they do not comment soon on the Burmese fossils.

P.S. Does anyone have a list (or a link) to certain things about evolution, like things that are not disputed and ‘everybody’ agrees on? I would like to take a look at that.


A Matter of FAITH

Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman - Pieter de Grebber

This morning I was reading 2 Kings 4-7 and something unusual caught my eyes.  In chapter 5 the text speaks of a certain Naaman, a commander of the army of the king of Syria.  The pagan king of Syria “was leaning” on Naaman’s arm.

Chapter 7, on the other hand, speaks about another commander, the captain on whose hand the king of Israel leaned.

Both of these military figures are faced with difficult situations, and they are also confronted by the Word of God.  One is a leper (Naaman), and the other is facing famine and a siege.  For both the only hope is Elisha, the man of God who speaks the Word of God.

What makes this juxtaposition of characters somewhat shocking (and really a rebuke to Israel and its people) is that the foreigner, the one on whom the pagan king of Syria leaned, believed the Word, obeyed it, and lived, while the Israelite captain did not believe the Word of God spoken through Elisha and died in unbelief.

A fairly long passage is dedicated in the Bible to the foreigner Naaman who believed and was healed.  By contrast, the unbelieving Israelite captain (serving an unbelieving king – Joram son of Ahab) has a sad end, repeated twice in chapter 7 (vv. 17 and 20): … and the people trampled him in the gate, so he died, as the man of God had said

There are many trials and exceptional situations in a man’s life.  Help us LORD to believe you and your Word in a world and culture of unbelief.

Healing and life is only in a life of FAITH!

Pastor Chris


Obama in the Middle East – Is Peace Possible?

Obama is in the Middle East trying to mend relations with a part of the world that very much hates us.  The first stop was in Saudi Arabia – without doubt one of the most repressive countries in the world, a country with almost zero religious freedom (rivaled only by North Korea).

As one who lived in a muslim country (Indonesia), with a more colorful background that W, he is supposed to be more qualified to mend relations with this part of the world, and understand better Islam.  One only hopes that is the case.

My view is much more pessimistic about Obama’s knowledge of Islam and the Middle East, and also about the possibilities for peace.

I wrote a while back about PEACE in Islam (see the article rubric above) and my conclusions were not very encouraging.  I hope I am wrong.  Here, I will point out a few things and I would like to hear/read some opposing views.

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Prominent Abortion Provider Killed in Church

A sad thing happened (and it is all over the news) yesterday when Tiller, a prominent provider of late term abortions, was gunned down in his church on Sunday.

See this interview with Tiller on FOXnews. This interview gives considerable support to the accusations brought against Tiller and justify his nickname “Tiller the baby killer.”

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Mohler on Abortion in USA

Al Mohler has again a couple of good comments on abortion.  The following is the conclusion of this post:

“The most ominous trend for the pro-choice movement is the increasingly pro-life character of younger Americans.  As some observers have pointed out, a generation that can see ultrasound images of themselves in their own baby books tends to see abortion for what it is — the killing of a child.”

Some very good points here.  We are the generation that can see much better the images of future babies and record these for posterity…

“Here is the great quandary for the pro-choice movement:  More than 35 years after Roe v. Wade, they find that abortion is anything but the “settled issue” that some abortion proponents were certain would be the fate of the abortion question soon after 1973.  To the contrary, the pro-choice movement is losing ground, not gaining.  The frustration of pro-choice leaders is starting to show.  They have little reason to be confident.

Abortion remains the greatest scandal confronting the American conscience.  Those of us who yearn for America to return to its senses on this issue can take hope, even as we have much to do.  Rebuilding a Culture of Life is no easy or quick task.  This is one of the greatest civilizational challenges faced by this generation.

America has an unsettled conscience about abortion.  We should be thankful for this fact, but not satisfied.

An unsettled conscience is far better than a conscience settled on the killing of unborn children.”

Indeed! Still – much remains to be done and prayed about!


Some Advice for PASTORS

There are some good preaching points floating out there on Youtube.  The following by Walter Brueggemann is one of the better ones:

It reminds me of the text in Acts 6, where the apostles made a firm decision to devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the WORD!!!

As pastors and preachers, we certainly need to decide on our priorities.  As a rule, I tend to go with the advice of the apostles vs. that of the latest church growing seminar/book.   The rabbis provide a fine and sobering example too!

Who is your example?


For Your Prayer List – Add Hugh Hefner

Well, well, well – I never thought that I would add Hugh to my prayer list (though it is clear that he needs it more than most).

The infamous Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy etc., was actually raised in a good Methodist home.  The rest is history.

Hugh is one of those famous stars who seems to remain perennially immature, and has not figured out yet (though he is 83) that “he can get no satisfaction” (he has tried plenty] from human beings (aka “playmates”) regardless of the size of their breasts.

Having said that, there seems to an awakening in his soul.  There seems to be a longing in his heart to meet the only superstar that really counts and can satisfy.  Thus, he recently said (check out Foxnews):

“[I’d] like to find out what [Jesus Christ] was all about,” he added. “Separate the reality from mythology. Find out the roots of what has become a major religion of my time. I was raised in a good Methodist home and I had questions about organized religion, and I would love to have the answers.”

Let’s pray for Hugh that he meets the real Jesus Christ.  For it is only the real Jesus Christ who can change his life and really satisfy his heart!

The article for his quote is here: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,518219,00.html


Waiting on God to Act – Psalm 33

This morning I finished reading Psalm 33.  It has a great last verse:

`%l”) Wnl.x;îyI rv,ªa]K;÷ Wnyle_[‘ hw”åhy> ^åD>s.x;-yhi(y>

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

It contains that great theological and comforting word ds,x, (chesed) – well translated here as steadfast love by ESV. Can this be the equivalent of grace in the New Testament? I think so (see John 1:14).

And then there is the verb (yachal) translated here as hope. Another meaning of the verb is simply ‘to wait.’ Isn’t that what hope is all about – to wait for God to act in history and in one’s personal life? Isn’t hope simply anticipation – a trustful expectation that God will act at the right time no matter how difficult and hopeless our circumstances look?

He will act – not because we are good and deserving, but because of his chesed!

Praise be to God!


A SERMON on IMMANUEL – Lancelot Andrewes

I am reading an interesting book called A City Upon a Hill: How Sermons Changed the Course of American History. What follows is a great excerpt  from a sermon on the birth of Jesus by Lancelot Andrewes.  Lancelot was a biblical scholar and “the greatest preacher and linguist of the day,” according to the author Larry Witham (p. 13).  Wow – now that is a deadly combination!  I am not sure I know any people who are both great linguists and preachers these days (?).

In any case – Lancelot is a “witty orator” and deserves a hearing. Here is the excerpt from his sermon on Immanuel (p.13 of the book):

For if this Child be “Immanuel, God with us,” then without this Child, this    Immanuel, we be without God. “Without Him in this world,” (Eph. ii. 12), saith the Apostle; and if without Him in this, without Him in the next; and if without Him there – if it be not Immanu-el, it will be Immanu-hell; [note that “Immanu” means “with us” in Hebrew] and that and no other place will fall, I fear me, to our share. Without Him, this we are.  What with Him? Why, if we have Him, and God by Him, we need no more; Immanu-el and Immanu-all.

What can I say to this, but a big AMEN!?  May God be with all of you and let Him be all for you throughout the life.

Pastor Chris


Learning from Hollywood – Keep Moving FORWARD

That is right.  You read correctly.  This post is about learning from Hollywood, especially from the comments of Art Linson who has teamed up with De Niro for a spoof on Hollywood (“What Just Happened).  The interview with both of them can be found here on CNN.  The movie is a satire dishing the dirt on the highs and lows of Hollyood based on Linson’s book “Bitter Hollywood Tales From the Front Line.”  The book details the experiences of AL as a movie produced (“The Fight Club,” “Into the Wild” etc.).

What struck me in this interview was the comment by Linson about the courage and determination to succeed in Hollywood (my emphasis):

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Back from ETS and SBL

I finally made it back to Amman, with a few more books and a lot less money.  There were many memorable moments during this trip – I will mention here only some highlights. 

I did get to meet John Piper.  That is right – I briefly shook his hand as he was browsing at ETS through the Christian Focus publications.  The conversation was brief (I kind of froze 😦 ), but it is still something to brag about. 🙂

We also had a wonderful dinner at ETS with (most of?) the Romanians present there.  I got the pleasure to meet Sorin Sabou (El-Roi Romanian Baptist Church in Chicago) and Adonis Vidu (Gordon-Conwell).  I also enjoyed the time with ‘older’ friends: Emil Bartos, George Hancock Stefan, and Radu Gheorghita. 

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I am AWAY in the Middle East

I am away from Korea for some time learning new things about the Middle East.

 

First of all – my access to the net is limited here so I will not be writing very much.  In a way this is good – if I can reduce my time on the net I may get more accomplished at work (writing), and I get to spend more time with my family.  Praise the Lord! [Ashkur Allah = Thank God]

 

I am learning some Arabic together with my wife and also about the Muslim culture.  The whole Muslim world is celebrating Ramadan.  This means that we cannot eat out (before 7 pm and then it is very very crowded) during most of the day.  They of course eat a lot more at night. The people seem to be enjoying this religious holiday, but I have not talked to many Muslims about this.

 

It is an interesting and educational experience talking to the taxi drivers.  I found out that one is a secret Christian who cannot change his name (to a Christian one) for fear of being killed.  Another one told me that Israel will not exist anymore by 2022 and had a very negative attitude toward USA (he spoke English fairly well).  And yet another one cheated me about $1 on his way to break the Ramadan fast.  It is an interesting and fascinating world out here, and we are both looking forward to learn more about this fascinating part of the world.  Thank you for your prayers.

 

May God bless the Middle East with much SHALOM/SALAAM!