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Let’s Buy the Ice Cream

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You know what you don’t expect to see at Baskin Robbins in Indianapolis*? A Muslim woman buying treats decked out in a full length niqab with only her eyes showing. But that’s just what my friend Hannah saw. Of course the Holy Spirit saw the woman too and promptly whispered to Hannah, “Pay for her ice cream!” Ahhh! Granted, buying ice cream is a little easier than some things the Holy Spirit may have said, but still.

Hannah’d been learning about Muslims and is by nature a little daring, so she did it! (Full disclosure: She used her boyfriend’s debit card!) The awkward purchase soon morphed into a lively conversation and culminated with Hannah being invited to dinner the next day!

Names and numbers were exchanged, locations and times agreed upon and Facebook stalking commenced. Hannah was alarmed to see her burka buddy’s page hosting a number of videos not too complimentary to Christians. But she knew the food would be great and God had her back, so she went.

The food was delicious, the conversation warm and heart felt. Rachel’s simple hopes were met: Her new friend got to know a Christian who liked her, she felt welcomed in the U.S., and Rachel learned a ton about her friend’s culture and beliefs.

Just that would have been pretty cool, but then Fatima capped the evening with this, “My husband owns a number of resorts throughout our country. We would love to have you be our guest at one with a penthouse suite, free food and your own driver! Can you come for a vacation or maybe for your honeymoon?”

Wow! Sometimes the simplest act, the smallest step across the divide that separates us leads to things we would not have imagined.

Let’s buy the ice cream!

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7 Hopes for Muslims and Us in 2018

Adobe Spark (81)

The sun broke pink and orange and beautiful over the plains and onto our mountain here in southern Colorado this morning. It was stunning. As I look out past our homestead to the expanse of the world and inward to my heart, there is much that is beautiful and much that is not. Can I share seven things I pray we’ll see in 2018, among Muslims and in our own hearts?

  1. I hope that 2018 brings the beginning of a massive reconstruction effort in Syria. Along with tons of money, may God send bright, hard-working people, motivated by his love to come along side, build businesses and bathrooms, teach, train and love.
  2. I hope that 5% of my broader tribe, American Christians, will make at least one Muslim friend. If that really happened, every last Muslim in the U.S. could have three Christian friends!
  3. I hope the situation changes dramatically for both the Rohingya, who have fled for their lives to Bangladesh in the 100’s of thousands and for similar numbers of Africans marooned in Libya with little hope of going home or forward to Europe.
  4. I hope the U.S. will understand and implement God’s best in terms of welcoming refugees.
  5. I hope we who love Jesus will dream God’s dreams and hope God’s hope for ourselves and Muslims around the world. May our hearts delight in the things that delight God’s heart.
  6. Jesus said the thief came to steal, kill and destroy, but that he came to bring abundant life. I hope this abundant life will be known in new, wonderful ways for Muslims from the end of our block to the ends of the earth.
  7. I hope you get to share at least one amazing meal with a Muslim in his restaurant in your town or her home far away. Jesus will join you.

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Responding to Islamophobia #1

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For most of us, our encounters with Islamophobia will be in the form of words by non-Muslims to other non-Muslims. “Those camel jockeys. . .” “Those rag heads. . .” And worse.

But what if you actually see someone giving grief to a Muslim? You’re there. You could do something. But what? What does a normal person do?

In popular U.S. culture, you deliver a single, head-snapping, concrete-fisted blow that nearly knocks out the oppressor, leaving him only enough consciousness to shamefully slink away. Two problems with this: 1. Unless you’ve practiced it a lot, you’re punch will connect with his upper arm and leave at most a light red mark, not even a bruise! And 2. Jesus, even though he knew how to make whips, only used them in church.

Maeril, a freelance art director and illustrator, living in Paris, has drawn a brilliant and practical comic to show how normal, caring people might respond to a situation of islamophobic harassment.

She stresses two main points:

1. Do not, in any way, interact with the attacker. You must absolutely ignore them and focus entirely on the person being attacked!

2) Please make sure to always respect the wishes of the person you’re helping: whether they want you to leave quickly afterwards, or not! If you’re in a hurry escort them to a place where someone else can take over – call one of their friends, or one of yours or the police.

I haven’t personally tried this, but it seems like a wise, non-passive response. It has a bit of the feel of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. May God give us loving wisdom and courage should we be called upon to engage in a situation like this.

If you think this might be helpful, please forward it to friends. Subscribe to this weekly 300 word email just to the right.

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Mary, Baby Jesus and a Major Misconception

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Her name was Noor. She was curious, compassionate and smart. She was pursuing on a Phd in math in France, far from her Damascus home. She and my wife, Ann, had talked about family, faith, the growing fear in Syria and hope for the future. Having asked her a number of questions, Ann backed off a bit and said, “Do you have any questions for me?”

Noor paused, maybe wondering if it was ok to possibly shame her new friend with what she was really wondering, then decided it was worth the risk, “Do you guys really think Jesus is the son of God?”

This was no theological smackdown. No apologetic challenge. Rather, a brow-furrowed, cautious inquiry. “Can someone as kind as you, think something as gross and terrible as what I’ve been taught you think?”

Ann replied brilliantly, “Yes, we do. But not the way you think we do.” Noor’s raised eyebrows invited her to continue. “We believe it was a miracle. The Holy Spirit came over Mary. There was nothing sexual.”

You could almost see the weight lift from Noor. “That’s what we believe. That it was a miracle!”

Like many Muslims, she’d been taught that Christians think God and Mary hooked up and had little baby Jesus. Can you imagine how that colors what they see at Christmas? What they might think of people who claim to love and follow Jesus?

Muslims and Christians have deep and important differences in how we think about God, but on this we concur: Jesus was miraculously born of a virgin. We also agree that this little Christmas baby grew up to alter the course of history. And that he’ll return someday to consummate the purposes of God.

 

For further evidence of Ann’s brilliance, check out her new blog on life, hospitality and rehabbing houses.

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Grateful

turkish dad and daughter

I preached a sermon last week about gratitude. Arguably the best part of it was a video clip of Ann Voskamp talking about gratitude. The darkest moment was actually saying the words, “Attitude of gratitude!” While I’m usually pretty immune to being affected by my own sermons, this one has got me thinking. I’m actually trying to apply Ann’s challenge to write down three things you’re thankful for each day. It’s a smart practice on many levels. 

Can I share with you three things I’m thankful for in regard to Muslims? 

  1. I’m thankful that the Saudi crown prince announced his intention to return the kingdom to a more moderate approach to Islam. I’m politically naive and perennially hopeful, but I take this as good news. 
  2. I’m grateful for the Muslims who taught me to enjoy new foods and beverages: Jordanians who introduced me to coffee and knafeh; Indians who shared nan and biryani; and the kind and crusty old Turkish guy who introduced me to Adana kebabs and beer. 
  3. I’m grateful for my friend Ismael who’s taught me about kindness, generosity and risky compassion. In many ways he looks a lot more like Jesus than I do. 

Feeling some gratitude related to Muslims in your life? Share it here

And now a challenge: Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays, is just around the corner. There might not be an easier time to take a risk and invite a Muslim family to dinner. And “What am I thankful for” is a built in conversation starter! Maybe this seems easy to you. Great. If not, if you have questions or concerns, please post them here and I’ll address them. 

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Tribute to Nabeel Qureshi

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A member of our tribe died this past week. A leader, actually. 

Nabeel Qureshi grew up in a warm Pakistani family as a faithful, practicing Muslim. After an arduous intellectual and spiritual journey, he began to follow Jesus as a young adult in 2005.

His love for Jesus and for Muslims led him to a career as an apologist, arguing winsomely and relentlessly for the truth of the Gospel. His book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus has seen unprecedented success and has impacted untold numbers of people. 

In August of 2016, Nabeel shared on Facebook, “My family and I have received the news that I have advanced stomach cancer, and the clinical prognosis is quite grim.” In the midst of intense, global prayer, Nabeel died last Saturday, September 16th at age 34. He leaves behind a wife and young daughter. 

He also leaves behind some pretty big shoes to fill. I’m grateful that his books and videos remain, but much work also remains. I pray that Nabeel’s death will inspire us to love Muslims more practically and fiercely, share the hope of Jesus more faithfully with both Muslims and Christians and pray without giving up for the fullness of God’s kingdom. 

If you want to help Nabeel’s wife and daughter, buy his book or give directly here.

To learn more, check out this blurb in the Missions Catalyst ezine, this article by his boss and friend, Ravi Zacharias or this kind overview by Justin Taylor. 

Will you join me in praying for comfort and hope for Nabeel’s family? Let’s also ask God to raise up many to carry forward his work. May his influence for God’s glory in death far exceed what has been seen so far. 

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Pray for the Rohingya

Adobe Spark (56)On the one hand, our oldest daughter gets married in two days! There’s not much happier than that. On the other hand, I’m reading about 250,000 Rohingya refugees who’ve fled from Burma to Bangladesh. Their scale of suffering is beyond what I can imagine and it’s making my head spin. 

The Rohingya are Muslims living in a predominantly Buddhist state. They are ethnically related to Bengalis and have been oppressed for decades. The current situation, and the history leading up to it, is murky at best. The Rohingya live in a geographically isolated part of Burma which is further cut off by government forces. I’m suspect of almost everything said about this situation. 

This much does seem clear: multiple tens of thousands of women, children and elderly are fleeing for their lives in the most deplorable conditions. They are driven out because they are Muslim, because they are minorities and because recently a few of their own, armed with primitive weapons have attacked police. 

What can you and I do? We can pray. God sees the situation clearly. He knows each name. And Jesus’s life and death show us that he loves the Rohingya more than we will ever know. 

Here are some prayer points:

  1. Pray for safe passage for Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, for strength and stamina, for water, food and shelter along the way. 
  2. Pray for proper government response both in Burma and beyond. Pray particularly for Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, who now leads Burma, to courageously respond to this crisis. 
  3. Pray for Bangladesh as they struggle to receive these refugees, for resources and hospitality. 
  4. Finally, pray for our hearts, that we would not grow cold to people suffering simply because of who they are. 

Please share this with others who might want to know about and pray for the Rohingya situation.

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