Posts belonging to Category Religion

The Sacrificial Lamb (Video)

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar year. SourceFlix has put together an excellent 9-minute video explaining the Day of Atonement and showing how it has been fulfilled for believers today through Christ.

The Sacrificial Lamb (Video length: 8:56)

You can also read about the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament in Leviticus 16.

Link: SourceFlix

Ramadan 2010 – 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World

The month of Ramadan begins today (August 11 – September 9 for the year 2010). Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and the most sacred month of the Islamic year. Muslims believe that the first verse of the Qur’an (Koran) was revealed to Muhammad during Ramadan in AD 610. Each year at this time Muslims fast during the daylight hours for the whole month. In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qur’an.

30-Days International produces a “30-Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” Christian prayer guide coinciding with Ramadan each year. The booklet contains daily readings with prayer points, informative background articles, a list of titles for further study and a resource section featuring ministries and services focusing on the Muslim world. There is also a Children’s Edition with quizzes, stories and maps. You can order the 52-page booklet here, or you can sign up for the free email version which is distributed daily during the 30 days of Ramadan. Free pdf versions of the adult and children’s editions are also available for download.

I have signed up for the daily emails and look forward to participating in this prayer effort. If you are a Christian, would you consider participating also? Here is an additional challenge. When you consider that Muslims around the world are committed to fasting and reading through the entire Qur’an this month, how much time will you invest in prayer and reading your Bible?

Note: If you are looking for a good book on how to share the gospel with Muslims, let me recommend Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile’s book, The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence.

Most Popular Kindle Highlights for the Koran

      (Note: For ebook and audiobook conversions, see Fowler Digital Services.)

Fowler Digital Books | The KJV Bible Memory Version: A Tool for Treasuring God's Word in Your Heart (King James Version), by Ray Fowler

Check out The Bible Memory Version for the Kindle here.


Yesterday when I posted the Kindle’s most popular highlights for the Bible, someone suggested I do the same for The Koran. There were two Kindle versions of The Koran that had a sufficient number of highlights for Amazon to list them: the Ali and the Haleem translations. In both versions the most highlighted sections all came from Chapter 2: The Cow. The only other chapter with a significant amount of highlighting was Chapter 5: The Dinner Table. So, here are the most popular passages in the Koran as highlighted by Kindle users around the world:

[2.62] “Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.” (41 highlights: 31 Ali + 10 Haleem)

[2.190-191] “And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits. And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.” (22 highlights: 13 Ali + 9 Haleem)

[2.113] “And the Jews say: The Christians do not follow anything (good) and the Christians say: The Jews do not follow anything (good) while they recite the (same) Book. Even thus say those who have no knowledge, like to what they say; so Allah shall judge between them on the day of resurrection in what they differ.” (20 highlights: 12 Ali + 8 Haleem)

[2.87] “And most certainly We gave Moses the Book and We sent apostles after him one after another; and We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, clear arguments and strengthened him with the holy spirit, What! whenever then an apostle came to you with that which your souls did not desire, you were insolent so you called some liars and some you slew.” (16 highlights: 11 Ali + 5 Haleem)

[2.24-25] “Be on your guard against the fire of which men and stones are the fuel; it is prepared for the unbelievers.” (13 highlights: all from Ali)

[2.136] “Say: We believe in Allah and (in) that which had been revealed to us, and (in) that which was revealed to Abraham and Isma’il and Isaac and Jacob and and the tribes, and (in) that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and (in) that which was given to the prophets from their Lord, we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him do we submit.” (12 highlights: all from Ali)

[2.193] “And fight with them until there is no persecution, and religion should be only for Allah, but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.” (12 highlights: all from Ali)

[2.256] “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.” (12 highlights: all from Ali)

In yesterday’s most popular Bible passages there was a clear theme of trusting God and not worrying. The main theme I could find here has to do with the relationship of Muslims with Christians and Jews.


Related posts:
    • Amazon Kindle’s Most Popular Bible Highlights
    • Top 10 Kindle Features
    • My Kindle Got Run Over by a Car

(Note: For ebook and audiobook conversions, see Fowler Digital Services.)

Around the Web – 5/14/2009

American Religious Identification Survey 2008

The Program on Public Values at Trinity College just released the results from their 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS 2008 Survey). Here are some highlights from the report:

  • The number of American adults identifying themselves as Christians has declined. 86% of American adults identified as Christians in 1990 and 76% in 2008. 34% of American adults considered themselves “Born Again or Evangelical Christians” in 2008.
  • The Catholic population of the United States has shifted away from the Northeast and towards the Southwest. Between 1990 and 2008, the Catholic population proportion of the New England states fell from 50% to 36% and in New York it fell from 44% to 37%, while it rose in California from 29% to 37% and in Texas from 23% to 32%.
  • The percentage of Americans claiming no religion has increased. The percentage jumped from 8.2% in 1990 to 14.2% in 2001, and has increased to 15% in 2008. Northern New England has now taken over from the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country, with Vermont leading all other states by a full 9 points.
  • Changes in religious self-identification since 2001 have been moderate in comparison to the 1990s, which was a period of significant shifts in the religious composition of the United States.

You can read highlights of the ARIS 2008 Survey here or download a pdf of the full report here. Albert Mohler offers some good commentary on the data with his post: Faith as Fashion Statement — The New Religious Reality?

Update: Stephen Prothero questions the survey’s findings. Albert Mohler responds.

Related post: Most and Least Religious States

Indulgences are Back

Indulgences are making a comeback in the Roman Catholic Church. An indulgence is supposed to reduce your punishment in Purgatory before entering Heaven. As you may recall from history, the selling of indulgences was one of the abuses that Martin Luther denounced in the Reformation. The Catholic Church is not selling indulgences per se but is making them available under certain conditions. From the New York Times:

According to church teaching, even after sinners are absolved in the confessional and say their Our Fathers or Hail Marys as penance, they still face punishment after death, in Purgatory, before they can enter heaven. In exchange for certain prayers, devotions or pilgrimages in special years, a Catholic can receive an indulgence, which reduces or erases that punishment instantly, with no formal ceremony or sacrament.

There are partial indulgences, which reduce purgatorial time by a certain number of days or years, and plenary indulgences, which eliminate all of it, until another sin is committed. You can get one for yourself, or for someone who is dead. You cannot buy one — the church outlawed the sale of indulgences in 1567 — but charitable contributions, combined with other acts, can help you earn one. There is a limit of one plenary indulgence per sinner per day.

As a Christian who believes that Jesus took the full punishment for my sins at the cross, I do not believe in Purgatory and so I find the whole idea of indulgences very odd. Also, do you see much of a distinction between “buying” or “earning” an indulgence as stated in the article?

Here are a few applicable verses from the New Testament to reflect on:

Day after day every priest [speaking of Old Testament priests] stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [speaking of Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 10:11-12)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Related article: Indulgences 101

Most and Least Religious States

A new Gallup poll reports on the most and least religious states in the U.S. I found this especially interesting since I pastor a church in Massachusetts (which tied for third as the least religious state in the nation).

An analysis of more than 350,000 interviews conducted by Gallup in 2008 finds Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas to be the most religious states in the nation. Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts are the least religious states.

Gallup used the responses to a straightforward question that asked: “Is religion an important part of your daily life?” Here are the breakdowns for the top ten most and least religious states in the country.

Top Ten Most Religious States   Top Ten Least Religious States

According to the poll, overall, 65% of Americans say religion is an important part of their daily lives.

Overall Importance of Religion

Related article: OK, There Really is a Bible Belt

Muslim Tents Near Mecca

Muslim Tents Near Mecca
Thousands of tents housing Muslim pilgrims are crowded together in Mina near Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

I’ve camped out at some of the big Jesus Music Festivals before, but it never looked like this! From the Big Picture – The Hajj and Eid al-Adha:

Yesterday marked the end of the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha, or “Feast of Sacrifice” – which also marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. One of the pillars of Islamic faith, the Hajj must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by any Muslim who has the ability to do so. This year, nearly 3 million Muslims made the Hajj, without major incident, and are now returning to their homes across the world. Muslims who stayed closer to home celebrated Eid al-Adha, commemorating the the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son to God. Traditional practices include ritual prayers, the sacrifice of animals (usually sheep), distribution of the meat amongst family, friends and the poor, and visiting with relatives. (41 photos total)

Top Ten Religion Stories of 2008

Here are Christianity Today’s top ten religious stories of 2008:

  1. Election 2008: Democrats woo evangelical vote, making only slight gains from Bush era.
  2. Voters turn back California Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision.
  3. Christians in Orissa, India, again become scapegoats for Hindu extremists.
  4. Anglican Communion continues to implode in slow motion.
  5. Christians flee Iraq and Gaza.
  6. Candidates’ religious associations come under scrutiny.
  7. Ministries hold their breath as financial crisis threatens the global economy.
  8. Muslim and Christian interfaith dialogues get serious.
  9. Todd Bentley’s Florida Outpouring divides charismatic movement.
  10. Texas authorities raid FLDS ranch.

I liked CT’s list better than TIME’s list, which for some reason included Extraterrestrials May Already be Saved as part of its top ten. You can click here to vote on CT’s top story of the year.

Praying for Muslims in Beijing

I am participating in the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World. Here is today’s entry on the Hui people in Beijing.

Population: 15,380,000
Ethnic Han Chinese: 96%
Major Muslim group: Hui people (approx. 2% or about 280,000)
There are about 12 million Hui in all of China.

The Hui people trace their ancestors back to Muslim traders, soldiers, and officials who came to China during the seventh through fourteenth centuries. These men settled and married local native (Han) Chinese women. The Hui have so well assimilated into the Chinese society that they are almost indistinguishable from the Han Chinese, except in dietary and religious practices.

There is very little if any Christian witness to the Hui Muslims in general. There are no known believers among the Muslim Hui in Beijing. Beijing is the capital of the People’s Republic of China, The city was founded more than 3,000 years ago, and was regarded as the capital of China for over 850 years.

Prayer Starters:

  • May God open doors for Chinese believers in the Messiah to proclaim Christ to Muslims.
  • May God cause the Muslim Hui people in the Beijing area to seek the true God.
  • Pray that Chinese believers can be agents of blessing and positive change for the city and the Muslim population.

If you would like to participate in the 30 Days of Prayer, you can click here for daily prayer summaries via e-mail or click here to subscribe to the 30 Days RSS feed.

Related posts:

Pew Forum Religion Survey Skewed?

There has been a lot of talk around the web since the Pew Forum U.S. Religious Landscape Survey came out last week. One of the most controversial findings in the report was that a majority of those affiliated with a religion did not believe their religion was the only way to salvation. However, new information shows that the actual question posed to survey takers may have been interpreted in different ways. Terry Mattingly reports:

In one of several questions probing the role of dogmatism in American life, interviewers asked adults which of two statements better fit their beliefs: “My religion is the one, true faith leading to eternal life” or “many religions can lead to eternal life.”

The results leaped into national headlines, with 70 percent of those affiliated with a religion or denomination saying that many religions can bring eternal salvation … But there’s the rub. It’s impossible, based on a straightforward reading of the Pew Forum research, to know how individual participants defined the word “religion” when they answered.

“We didn’t have a set of interview guidelines or talking points that we used when asking that question,” said Greg Smith, a Pew research fellow. “The interviewers didn’t say, ‘Well, that means someone who is a member of a different denomination than yours’ or ‘that means someone in a completely different religion than your religion.’ So people may have answered that in different ways.”

There is no way — based on this round of research — to know precisely how many believers have decided to reject what their faiths teach, if those faiths make exclusive truth claims about salvation and eternal life. Thus, said Smith, the Pew Forum is planning follow-up work.

I thought the numbers in the survey seemed questionably high. I am guessing that many (not all) Christians interpreted the question to mean different denominations rather than different religious faiths. In fact in the same article Mattingly refers to a new survey by the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Research team which specifically asked Protestants if they believed people can find eternal life through “religions other than Christianity.” Only 31 percent agreed “strongly” or “somewhat.”

See related posts:
    Pew Forum U.S. Religious Landscape Survey
    New Study Finds Fewer Evangelical Universalists than Reported

World Religion Map Link

Click for Map of the World’s Religions.
Map of World Religions