The opportunities before us

One thing we should learn in life fairly quickly is this: you don’t get all “good” days or all “bad” days. You get a mixture. There are days when one or the other seems to “win out,” but be thankful we really don’t get all of one or the other.

The mixture teaches us. The mixture humbles us. The mixture matures us.

However, these days in life for me are currently days of excitement and anticipation. Our church has been in the process of remodeling space to bring a retail coffee shop to the community. We are very close to opening. There is anticipation and anxiety all at once. The “good.” The “bad.”

These are days of spiritual harvest as well. We pray for a fresh outpouring of the Spirit in our city. We pray for all our churches in the city to experience the power of God’s presence and may their churches be filled to overflowing!

We cannot let the anxieties deter us from the opportunities.

Ramadan is coming to a close for Muslims this year. This past week has been a week FULL of anxiety in the Muslim world. There was the attack at the Istanbul airport, then at a restaurant frequented by foreigners in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and just this morning word of yet another ISIS attack in Baghdad.

Anxiety.

I could hear it in the voices of two very good Muslim friends as I sat with them this week. There is a weariness of how they are seen in this world with news like this. There is a weariness of trying to be men of peace and all around them violence only seems to increase.

Opportunity.

This is a time for increased prayer. As I heard their hearts speak this week I cried out to the Lord that his Spirit would come to them and reveal himself! I prayed on this past Friday, which is the “night of power” in Ramadan, that the Spirit would reveal JESUS in power to them.

If we did not know the obstacles and anxieties, we would not know the victories.

Every day we have anxieties and opportunities before us. Let us not ignore either one! Let us move forward in FAITH to see what God will do with those anxieties as they are turned into opportunities.

 

The desire to seek peace and pursue it

Muslims are nearing the end of Ramadan, their month of fasting. Last night my wife and I shared the iftar (breaking the fast) meal with good friends. This afternoon I visited the mosque of my dear friend and afterward we sat and caught up with each other in our lives.

With both events I was caught with the tone of the conversation. Both last night and today there was a sense of “weariness” as we shared our hopes and sorrows. There is a sense of longing for peace, yet the realization that the world is more explosive than ever. It is in this month I pray for my Muslim friends that Jesus be revealed to them. And I pray so this year again.

May there be a longing for peace. May there be a longing rise up for the One who is the Prince of Peace.

O, come! O, come! Emmanuel!

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One of the Genuine Benefits from 9/11

Last night I was with a dear friend of mine and was reminded once again of how long I have known him. Over the years his influence has brought together many Christian leaders in our metro area and as I was introduced to many new Christian leaders last night, we would ask each other how we met our mutual friend.

I met my friend just a few days after 9/11. I had been away on a prayer retreat with other pastors when 9/11 happened. When I got back to town a day later, I immediately called several of my Muslim friends and let them know I was their friend and would always be their friend. If anything happened to them or their place of business, they could call me and I would help with whatever they needed.

Not long after that I made a trip to another Islamic center that was overseeing the mosque six blocks from my church. I asked to see the director, who was also the imam of the mosque. That was the first day I got to meet Dr. Hamdy El-Sawaf. That first meeting was very brief. I only introduced myself and let him know I was the pastor a few blocks from the mosque. If there was anything I could do for him, he could let me know.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to bring students and city leaders and congregation members to see Dr. Hamdy. We’ve been to Friday prayers. We’ve been to special Ramadan events.

Last night was an inter-faith event to talk about Ramadan. It is an annual thing at his mosque now. (He moved to lead another mosque near my house.)

One of the genuine benefits from 9/11 was the opportunity to meet Hamdy. He is a man of genuine peace. He genuinely seeks the peace of his city and the welfare of those around him. His generosity is immense. I am so fortunate to call this man my friend.

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The Beginning of Ramadan

Ramadan has begun for Muslims around the world. It is a month of fasting, prayer, and soul searching.

It is a great time to pray for my Muslim friends. Yes… friends.

I have been invited to join a very dear friend at his mosque one time to break the fast.

There is a particular congresswoman I would like to invite along… but I’m sure she’s busy. I tried a certain radio host’s number, but I’m sure he’s busy as well.

That which we do not know we fear.

We are not called to fear. We are called, as believers, to faith. Let us walk in faith and live out to others the power of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Ramadan, 9/11, and Prayer

One of the things I was thinking about for remembering 9/11 was actually visiting a mosque. Go to a Friday prayer. In the local mosques visitors are welcome. There is no expectation of following the prayers.

Since I begin teaching next week and my Fridays will be too busy, I went today. It is a mosque I usually visit, though it had been years since I last went.

As I sat and observed, I prayed. I so long for Jesus to be revealed to this group of people. There was nothing flashy about the visit. I didn’t even try to speak to the imam after the service. My presence was only to keep my heart open and pray for the Spirit of Jesus to truly be revealed in their lives.

Today is the last Friday of Ramadan so it is considered a very holy day. The emphasis on Ramadan and the work of God in their lives was taught. The end of Ramadan is a sacred time for them, much like the end of Lent would be for many Christians. There is anticipation.

In the past ten years I have had good Muslim friends, but today I realized those relationships need to be improved. In my busyness I just set aside the time normally used to visit my Muslim friends. I need to restore it in some way.

These are significant days in which we live. We must choose to walk in the Spirit of Messiah. The call of the Kingdom is to bless and to love. Ten years ago on 9/11 I called my Muslim friends to make sure they were okay. This year I will stop by and visit once again.

Lord, teach us to bless and not fear.