Muslims Next Door: uncovering myths and creating friendships

Well, I have no muslims living next door to me, but if I did, this would have been a great resource. The author, Shirin Taber, has a Irish Catholic mother and a Iranian Muslim father… and she became an evangelical Christian in high school. Taber focuses on making bridges between the Western and Muslim world.

She debunks some of the common myths that Americans have about Muslims in Part I, and then in Part II, Taber gives some ideas about making relationships with the Muslims around us.

Some highlights from Part II…

* Christians and Muslims have some things in common– one of them being that we are both, “moral” people…they care about their kids being in good schools, dressing modestly, etc. etc. This could be a springboard for some good conversation.

* Many Muslims feel like they are looked at suspiciously after 9/11. Many women are lonely, simply wanting true companionship. Sooooo– make friends with them! They are a woman, and like us women know, we need good girlfriends, no matter what their faith is.

* Hook up with a local university to invite some international students to your home. Most don’t see the inside of an American home while here in the states.

* When you have them over for dinner, make sure to be hospitable (this is what they are used to, and it communicates love to them)– make lots of different dishes, make sure to have good conversation over tea, ask them questions, etc. And when you go to their house, bring a small gift.

*Be open about your faith (because that’s who you are).

Most of these are pretty common ideas, but always a good reminder. 🙂

Overall? Basic, but good. 2.5/3.0 out of 5 stars.

Faith of My Fathers

Faith of My Fathers is by a guy named Chris Seay, who pastors Ecclesia of Houston, TX. Basically this book a dialogue between his grandfather, father, and himself about various issues that pastors have to deal with, ranging anywhere from Family to Burn-out to Politics. I was excited to read this book because I was hoping to better understand some of the generational differences that we have in the church, and maybe a little wisdom about overcoming those!

Well, I have to tell you that I was highly disappointed. Chris and his brothers(?) Robbie and Brian, along with conversation facilitator Donald Miller basically dominated the conversation. They are all fairly young, and have the “Our generation has this all figured out the right way” attitude. Of course, I would generally side with many of the conclusions they made on the different subjects, but I wasn’t looking for someone to affirm my conclusions– i was looking for a conversation that helped me to broaden my understanding.

At the end of each chapter, Chris would do a 1-2 page wrap-up. In many cases, I didn’t like his perspective/attitude in this part.

I’m left wondering what his real intentions were in writing this book. I suppose that the editing of the conversations could have been a big part of the way things were represented. Maybe if they would have put more of the dialogue in, or would have kept the conversation between Chris, his father-in-law, and grandfather, it would have been a more productive book.

I would give this one 1 or 2 out of 5 stars.

Irresistible Revolution

I just finished a great book by a guy named Shane Claiborne. It’s called “The Irresistible Revolution”. I thoroughly enjoyed it. For one, it combined the things I’ve been learning about all into one: peacemaking, being good stewards of the environment, loving people radically (whether they are rich or poor, young or old, similar or totally different from me), living in authentic community with others, and serving people like Jesus did.

Often times books like these get overlooked for their one-sidedness or lack of biblical foundation. This writing had neither one of these things. I was telling one of my roommates today that one thing I love about Shane’s writing is that he sees the darkness of both sides- and won’t participate in either. He encourages us not to get caught up in the “I’m way cooler/smarter/spiritual/relevant than _________ because ________.” He simply challenges the reader to look at the way Jesus lived, and to imitate Him.

I want to leave ya’ll with a few good morsels that I’ll be chewing on for the weeks to come (and hopefully living out as well, or it was a waste of time):

“Most good things have been said far too many times and just need to be lived.” p. 32

“I came to realize that preachers were telling me to lay my life at the foot of the cross and weren’t giving me anything to pick up.” p. 38

“I began to wonder if anybody still believed Jesus meant those things he said,” (referring to the things recorded in the Bible) p. 41.

“Poverty was created not by God but by you and me, because we have not learned to love our neighbors as ourselves,” p. 170.

“One of the things that became painfully clear to me in Iraq is that what’s at stake today is the reputation not just of America but of Christianity,” p. 218. (he went to iraq with christian peacemaker team, and met with lots of iraqi and kurdish christians, and boy did they have some surprising things to say…)

“Conservatives stand up and thank God that they are not like the homosexuals, the Muslims, the liberals. Liberals stand up and thank God that they are not like the war makers, the yuppies, the conservatives. It is similar self-righteousness, just with different definitions of evildoing. It can paralyze us in judgment and guild and rob us of life. Rather than separating ourselves from everyone we consider impure, maybe we are better off just beating our chests and praying that God would be merciful enough to save us from the present ugliness and to make our lives so beautiful that people cannot resist that mercy,” p. 252

Amen! My prayer now is that the Lord would show me how to live out what He’s been teaching me…because until I do, I know he’s going to continue pressing me with this dissonance inside my soul.

How To Read a Christian Book

Today I started … and then finished the book, “How to Read a Christian Book.” The author began by challenging Christians to be readers- of all genres and ideas. But, since the scope is just christian books, he gave us some good pointers on how to really read (choosing which books to spend time reading, reading different genres, spend time reading from different viewpoints, and really discern what the author is saying.

I am now aware of some “rules of etiquette” for reading:
1. Don’t criticize a book until you can fully understand the author’s argument. (criticize in the good way).
This point is important, in my opinion, because so often we go into books with an assumption that we won’t let go, especially if it’s an author we typically disagree with, or an idea that we have pre-calculated conclusions on. He talks about figuring out the definitions that the author is using for commonly used words so we don’t misunderstand what they are talking about. Examples that he uses in the book are: sin and holiness. I can add the two that I have experienced recently- justice and grace.

2. Don’t disagree contensiously. (yes, i had to look it up, and it means quarrelsomely)

3. Demonstrate the difference between understanding and personal opinion by presenting good reasons for any critical judgment you make.
I’ve realized that I need to think through why I don’t agree with something before I just start talking. haha, we all do really.

I think I’m going to try and start practicing!

The highlight of the book was “planning your personal library”. I took inventory and realized that, in regards to the christian books I have, we are lacking in only a couple categories.

So, what books would you highly recommend me (or someone else) reading? Give me top 5.

Beginning again

I’m going to start posting my reading reflections on here again. It’s been a while since i’ve written– about a year!

My goal this year is to read 27 books…I’m already well on my way! So far I’ve read Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne and How to Read a Christian Book. Currently I’m working on Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels, Faith of my Fathers by Chris Seay, and Planting Churches in a Post-modern World by Ed Stetzer.

Here’s to reading in 2007!

A War Within

Wow, who would have known that this is how things would turn out. I’m glad that i didnt know while jake was here in columbia. it would have ruined the last day he was here. it was a great week together though; perfect timing. our last hoorah before the bad news.

This is pretty hard. I feel a lot of things in my heart- some warring between flesh and Spirit going on.

How I should react….

Spirit: trusting God, taking each day at a time, toughening up and facing this with courage; not losing hope, but persevering in joy; not giving into despair that is crouching at the door of my heart; staying the Word and praying when i don’t feel like it; relying on my friends instead of isolating myself

Flesh: feeling sorry for myself; stop fighting for my joy, but give in to despair; whine, complain, question God’s presence and love; sleep all day; mope; allow myself to think of all the “what ifs”

Making sense of everything…

Spirit: 2 corinthians 1:7-11; getting others to pray, being open and eager to see the good God brings out of it; knowing that this is preparing us for the future; developing a habit of pray, trust, and emotional strength in the face of persecution, despair, etc.

Flesh: It doesn’t make sense; God doesn’t care or isn’t really there; i did something wrong- not enough faith or i didnt pray enough

Serving others…

Spirit: continue to live a life of sacrifice, compassion, and modeling Christ to a lost and dying world

Flesh: isolate myself, expect people to minister to me, not do anything because my heart hurts.

I think tonight the Spirit is winning.

New words learned today

Forgiving: giving graciously…freely giving
tenderhearted: compassionate
malice: ill will; desire to injure
slander: blasphemy; speaking evil of; injurious speech
clamor: a crying, outcry
anger: agitation of the soul, temper
wrath: passion, anger, anger boiling up and soon subsiding
bitterness: a bitter root of hatred producing a bitter fruit

grieving the HS: making sorrowful/sad, offending, making one uneasy, causing one to scruple
scruple: (n) an uneasy feeling arising from conscience or principle that tends to hinder action; (v) to hesitate as a result of conscience or principle

George Muller

What, what a great book to increase one’s faith. Sometimes I can hardly believe that all that he writes is true. Provision after provision. Asking no one for money but God. And the believers are moved to give, not even knowing there is need. Muller exhorts the believer to trust in God, believing that His love for us is deep and rich and real, and He is our friend and provider. We must trust in Him, and not in ourselves.

Talked about having a career…and if we’re in a career or working just to make money and support ourselves and our family, Muller says we need to find a different job. oh that is so different from the way the world works and teaches us! But to find a place to which God is calling us, whether this be in the business world, in a classroom, on the stock exchange, in the newsroom, or in a daycare.

Crazy. Awesome. Cool. God’s challenging me a lot to trust Him alone.

Is God more Holy than anything else?

Ken talked about it on Sunday …. my mind is still wrapped up in it. God, are you more holy than anything else? I try to look at my own life, and I am more than something else, at least i should be. I need to be more loving than anything else. I am to do all things out of love, love for God and love for other people. Not fake love, but real, deep, emotional love. Love that will lay my life down for them. Love that will take a bullet for them. Love that will give up my time and energy to serve them. Of the 3 greatest virtues- faith, hope, love….LOVE is the greatest. wow, love triumphs faith! love triumphs hope! Is it the same with God? Does Holy triumph all? Does the theme of scripture support that? God IS Holy. No Doubt. He is perfect and completely sanctified and set apart from us. However, I also know that we are all created in His image (saved and nonsaved alike)…that we (christians) are holy priesthood now. God is no longer this being that is separated from us. No, we are now in Him and He in us. He desires unity with us — the SAME unity that He has with Jesus (john 17). Holy is being set apart, different from. Love draws near….unity is result and product of love. Love and Holiness seem to be at battle with one another.

I also don’t see how the cross doesn’t make sense in the light of God being more loving. Instead, it’s supposed to make more sense in the light of God’s holiness??! Whatever, I were God, I would have not gone to the cross because it was going to be horrid- I would send my Son and have broken fellowship with Him so that I can make a way for mankind to be united to me. I dont buy that He was looking out for only Himself. Love, TENDER MERCY (luke 1:78) is the reason for Jesus coming. tender being an emotional word (in the greek). mercy being compassion, active pity. Wow, God is in LOVE with us! And some are afraid that communicating God’s love will make us irreverent. When we fiercly love someone, do we just treat him/her as a cuddly teddy bear? No. We respect them and honor them. Even moreso we are with the Father, the Sovereign King. I dont know about ya’ll, but God’s Father heart and love for me is what draws me to Him, not some cold, holiness. I am now speaking out of experience, and know that i can be misinterpretting my own feelings and experiences. But this is a huge thing that many say that I simply cannot get past and feel no peace about.

I was going to put a link to Ken’s sermon from sunday on here, but i just visited the website and found they had technical problems so there was no audio recording. Oh the irony.

Renovation of the Heart (chapter 2)

Chapter Two: The Heart in the System of Human Life

Six basic aspects of human life are:
1. thought
2. feeling
3. choice
4. body
5. social context
6. soul

We must confront the fact that our society is very feelings driven. People nearly always act on their feelings, and think it only right. Christians must confront this lie in spiriutal formation.

Western culture is a culture of rejection. That’s part of what comes with modernity. This has seeped into the church and it is dangerous, dangerous. We are created to be in relationship with other people, and when we are not in right relationship with others, it kills the soul. In 1 John, John talks about the fact that if we say we love God but hate our brother, we are a liar. Being in a right relationship with God and others are both sooo important. This really make sme want to love on people, recognizing them and trying to show them that they have value.