Closing Thoughts & My Mosque Trip…

{Sorry it’s taken me so long to pick back up with this last part of the “Removing Ignorance” posts regarding Muslims. I hope they have been enlightening thus far, and I hope this post is equally as challenging…it challenged me as I wrote…}

Do we as Christians avoid those of other faiths because we are afraid of them? Are we too insecure in our own faith to engage in dialogue with them? It seems that we are afraid that we might find out we are wrong or something. So, we simply choose to stay away from people who are different from us; they “threaten us”, right? I know that many people reading this feel uncomfortable at the mere thought of sitting at a table with a Muslim, listening to what they think/believe about Allah.

Do we not believe that the Gospel is also for Muslims? Can Christ’s blood cover over their sins as well? (If we’re “measuring” things here you’d probably find they have “less sin” than we do…chew on that) Is grace for “them”? If so, then how are we living our lives in such a way to prove that? How many Muslim friends, or friends of another faith do you have? Be they Mormon, Hindu, Muslim, etc. The truth is that most of us are uncomfortable being around those who are different from us. Whether it be moms who choose not to be around other moms who “mother” differently, or guys who are into sports not wanting to be around “nerds” who enjoy building computers, we all seem to migrate towards those who are just like us.

As Christians in America we have chosen our primary method of “reaching the lost” being a weekly church service that we can invite these “other people” to. Guys, when was the last time you know of a Muslim visiting your church? I don’t care what kind of church it is; you can probably not recall such a time. How will the Great Commission be fulfilled, and the nations reached if we expect the nations to come into our churches when it is obvious they will not do so?

Again, I think it’s time we each got out of our bubbles, and made friends with some people who are different from us…

Before my trip to DC a few weeks ago I visited a Mosque here in Vegas, and met some friendly Muslim men from Morocco. It was an interesting experience. They were THRILLED that I was there inquiring about Islam. They even gave me an evangelistic track about Islam. Seriously! It was as if I was the first non-Muslim to ever step foot on their property. They were excited, and desired for me to know about their faith in Allah through the Prophet Muhammad. (It was just as shocking for ME to go the THEIR “church” as it would be for THEM to come to MY “church”) They invited me, and my family back for one of the prayer times later that week. We haven’t gone yet, but probably will very soon.

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So much of the experience reminded me of how we do things as Christians…the Mosque was a HUGE and beautifully crafted peace of architecture. People gather to this “sacred” place to worship and pray. (Muslims do seem to get a little better use out of their buildings than us Christians, though. They use it several times/day every day of the week) I was greeted by Muslim men who handed me tracks, and shared how “happy” Islam would make me. I was invited back to a service later in the week. They both seemed uncomfortable sharing what exactly it was that would “make me happy”, & decided it would be easier to hand me the literature & invite me to a service instead. I could go on and on…

Guys, think about it. How often have you visited a mosque, temple, synagogue, etc. if ever? Then what in the name of Jesus makes us think people of other faiths will visit our churches? We must take the Gospel to the world.

I encourage you all to make it a priority to pursue a relationship with someone who is very different from you. You will probably be uncomfortable, but will learn a lot. Watch as the Gospel of Jesus infiltrates that relationship (as you allow it to). You may get to see a life transformed…

 

Neighborhood Yard Sale…!?

I know what you’re thinking…”that’s way too much work, exhausting, & I never make any money.” However, after this past weekend we weren’t really concerned with making money (Although we did raise lots of money for “Stop Child Trafficking Now“!), or having to put work into it. We learned that putting together a neighborhood yard sale might just be one of the BEST ways to meet neighbors, start new relationships, & build a sense of community within your neighborhood. Yes, it was a lot of work. Yes, most people didn’t make much money. But, we all met tons of new people, and are hoping that some wonderful relationships will be the result…

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The Simple/Organic Church we started here in the neighborhood came together to organize and host the yard sale. Our goal was to get people out of their houses to meet one another, get the word out about the neighborhood potluck dinner in the club house every month, and raise money/awareness for “Stop Child Trafficking Now”. All of the above were accomplished with great success!

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We bought hot dogs, chips, and drinks for lunch. It was fee, but we asked for donations for “SCTNow”. Some little kids in the hood set up a lemonade stand. It was a wonderful time. My neighbor John “manned” the grill for us, and served his butt off voluntarily the entire weekend. Others learned about the child trafficking that occurs in our city, and will be joining us on Halloween to hand out little toys with “SCTNow” facts attached to them.

If you don’t know your neighbors, and the thought of taking fresh baked cookies to their front door scares the hell out of you…then organize a community wide yard sale! Watch what happens…

Removing [More] Ignorance…

“Ignorance often breeds unnecessary fear and violence.” (p.74 Chandler, Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road)

I hope the thesis of my last post was that we, as Western Christians, need to get out of our comfort zones/”Christian Bubbles” in order to engage people who are different from us. Specifically, how can we go out of our way to encounter Muslims, and allow the Spirit of our Savior, Jesus, to show Himself? First, we must burn away the false pretenses we have in our minds about those who are different from us; during this conversation we will focus on Muslim, but you can apply these principles to any situation where differences exist…

In response people who say, “I hate Islam”, Mazhar asks, “What Islam do you hate? There are so many expressions of it…I cannot afford to hate Islam, or anything. For me, hate connects with fear, desire for revenge and unforgiveness.” (p.74, Pilgrims)

I doubt any of you who read this blog would really say you “hate” Muslims. However, our actions, whether conscious or not may speak hatred louder than we may think.

“Christians are in danger of repeating harmful periods of history when the West has gone to war on the Muslim East to conquer, physically or spiritually, in the name of God. Muslims rarely hear “Good News” from Christians; instead they feel targeted as enemies of a new war.” (p.74, Pilgrims)

The book I am currently reading right now is called “Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road“, by Paul-Gordon Chandler. It’s a wonderful book, and is helping me to remove quite a bit of the ignorance in my life regarding Islam. It is currently touching on some major issues that we do not have time to go into (Mainly, how our Western view & practice of “missions” & “missionaries” MUST change, and will soon, if not already be ineffective in the world.)

The book has also touched quite a bit on war…

“In the war in Iraq, both Western Christians and Arab Muslims prayed for God to give their respective side victory-seeing it as a moral or holy war.” (p.73, Pilgrims)

Ouch. Think about that for minute. Are we so arrogant to think that God “sides” with OUR country as opposed to an Eastern Country? If I’m not mistaken, Jesus Christ Himself was born and raised in the East. Not to mention the Christian Church was birthed THERE, and spread from THERE to HERE. Who do we think we are, really? I’m not sure God “sides” with any particular country, or region of the world at all…I think He might want all to know Him and the power of His resurrection, but I could be wrong…

“The most beautiful part of the Gospel…the cross…became a weapon used against us in crusader’s hands (Crusader in Arabic means “cross-bearer”). The cross, where God had embraced humanity, had become a sword.” (p.74, Pilgrims)

I hope this causes us all to stop and think about how our country approaches war, and engages in battle with others for the “freedom” of our “Christian Nation”. Put yourself in the shoes of the countries we’re waging war war against and think for a moment what they must perceive about us…the thoughts that come to my mind are far from a gracious, loving, Savior God whom I’ve found in Jesus.

“The Christian West is often seen by Muslims as generally immoral and supportive of a regime which they perceive as having for decades humiliated both Muslim & Christian Palestinian people.” (p.73, Pilgrims)

We’ll stop here for today, but will continue later this week with a short story of my visit to a local Mosque here in Las Vegas…I hope you will all begin to open yourselves up to beginning a relationship with someone who is different from you-Jesus did it….A LOT. We do it…A LITTLE, if at all.

“Out Of Business”…!?

A couple of days ago I posted a blog about our experience at “Poetry Reading Night”. If you haven’t read it you might want to do so before continuing with this post.

A dear friend of mine and Morgan’s, Jackie, posted the below comment in response to the above (linked) post. Before you read it: Jackie spent a summer with our Intentional Gatherings Ft. Worth crew a couple years ago, and then went back to Austin to start doing some rad stuff. She ended up on staff at The Austin Stone, where the Lord provided her with an incredible opportunity to bring some of what she learned about living in community ON MISSION to the church. She has a heart for true church planting movements, and from what I know of The Stone, they do as well. It may shock you that a staff member of an institutional mega-church would post a comment like this. I can assure you that The Stone knows her heart, and most likely shares the same heart…

Posted by Jackie:

“Man brother, your heart is so encouraging to me, and always seems to speak about what I’ve been wrestling with. Crazy.

This is my question I’m going through…if the institutional church/mega church/whatever is really there for the Kingdom, shouldn’t it’s goal be to put itself out of business? I.E., shouldn’t churches seek to keep the doors swinging so that believers come in, only to be released out into the harvest, where essentially they spend their time and therefore DON’T have time for church as a service and programming. I realize this is a dangerous question, but I just can’t get it out of my head.”

Jackie’s a thinker, and she’s passionate. She GETS movements, and making disciples. Maybe you guys can wrestle through this question with her. What are your thoughts?

This Could Be Beautiful…

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A friend of mine from back in Texas has been working on a wonderful personal reflection tool in his “spare time”. He actually just launched it this past Monday, and I wanted to share it with you all because I truly believe it will be powerful in some of your lives. It may not be for everyone, but it is certainly worth a try; if you spend  much time on a computer at all you should definitely create an account, and go through some “examens”. 

This tool allows you to take more intentional steps in your personal worship time with the Lord in many different/interactive ways. I don’t know about you guys, but I stopped journaling with a pen and paper years ago. Typically, I journal on a Word document while trying to flip through the scriptures, look at Bible Gateway, all while jotting down notes and prayer points. Examen.me allows you to do all of this right on your computer, and stores everything on the server. You have the ability to be guided through different scripture/prayer/journaling “examens”, and led towards real life application. I would encourage everyone to go create an account, try out a few examens, and see what you think. I would also love to hear any feedback that you may have. My buddy Brent would cherish any feedback as well. 

I’ve been a bit absent from the blog this week due to my mom, dad, and two little brothers being in town. I took the week off from teaching, and other work to spend some good quality time with them. I should be back in full swing this next week with some fun stories from this past week…

Beloved…

Not trying to be lame, and post other people’s stuff; Derek Webb is just so legit. I’ve listened to him for years, but the words to his songs are coming alive more and more as I listen lately. This song is called “Beloved”, and is another one of Derek’s “letters to the church”… (He is NOT writing this to a form, model, or institution. He is directing this at the people of God who make up His Church-keep that in mind as you read or listen)

“Beloved” – By Derek Webb

beloved these are dangerous times
because you are weightless like a leaf from the vine
and the wind has blown you all over town
because there is nothing holding you to the ground

so now you would rather be
a slave again than free from the law

(chorus)
beloved listen to me
don’t believe all that you see
and don’t you ever let anyone tell you
that there’s anything that you need
but ME

beloved these are perilous days
when your culture is so set in it’s ways
that you will listen to salesmen and thieves
preaching other than the truth you’ve received

because they are telling lies
for they cannot circumcise your hearts

(chorus)

beloved listen to me
don’t believe all that you see
and don’t you ever let anyone tell you
that there’s anything that you need
but ME

beloved there is nothing more
no more blessings and no more rewards
than the treasure of my body and blood
given freely to all daughters and sons

Again, Derek is speaking of unecessary things added, and ways we have been decieved. What do you think? What truths do you see here?