Tag Archives: culture

She invited workmate to dinner…and laughed!

I love it when a friend shares with me their own journey to reach out in friendship to our new neighbors from distant lands. Here is one such story I know you will enjoy – we’ve changed the names. (By the way, do you have a story to share? Email it to us.) Another #NearFrontierTREK.

Julie and Nabila were coworker’s, and became quite close over the years. Finally, the day came when Julie felt she should extend an invitation to Nabila and her husband, Ahmed, to come to dinner at her home.

Before sitting down to dinner Julie explained that she and her husband John give thanks before eating, so, “John will say a prayer.”  After John finished praying Ahmed said,  “That was really nice.  I like that you pray before eating.”  Julie said, “We have so many reasons to be grateful, so that’s why it’s important to give thanks.”  They all agreed, even Ahmed and Nabila’s son nodded his head.

family mealDuring the course of the meal John and Julie asked how and where Ahmed and Nabila had met.  They grew up in the same Middle Eastern city, and theirs was an arranged marriage. Although their families would get together on occasion, along with Ahmed’s and Nabila’s brothers and sisters, Ahmed and Nabila were never allowed to speak to each other because of their future marriage.  We all fell off our chairs laughing when Nabila said, “Ahmed looked at me and said, ‘Good enough.'”  Ahmed just smiled, but then he said, “We truly learned to love each other.”

Julie offered that John and she also had an arranged marriage.  In surprised unison Ahmed and Nabila said, “You too?”   John said, “No no no no,” but Julie continued.  “Let me tell you our story.  I was at church seated at a table, and had noticed a new man (John) sitting at the table across from me.  As I listened to him talk I could tell that he had a deep love for God, and I began to pray, “God, please make it possible for me to meet this man.”  And, after the service John came to talk to me.  So that’s how God arranged our marriage.”  And Ahmed and Nabila understood.  Later on Nabila was talking about something and said, “…just like you prayed and God arranged your marriage….”

For a continuation of this relationship, click here.

Photo credit: cherebork.com


Please share

Who will push “Play” no matter the cost?

Read what has come before here.

You can’t take this journey vicariously. It won’t happen by reading a book or watching a documentary. Doesn’t happen by listening to a sermon. A church won’t become inclusive by saying, “Anyone is welcome here.” Because what that means is they can come as long as they are willing to do things our way. But ask us to adapt what we do to accommodate them, no way! Ask us to change? Hey, this is our church.

Do you want to know what it ffriendseels like for someone from another culture, another country, another religion to come into your church?  The same way you (a committed Christian) would feel by going to worship at a Buddhist temple. The same way you would feel when entering a mosque on Friday afternoon. Don’t be so ethnocentric as to think they would like it in your church.

Friend, the onus is on us, to invite them into our homes, and to go to theirs; to take difficult steps in a risky direction.

 Which leads to the third part of the adventure. Peter must have cringed when he heard where Cornelius lived: the town of Caesarea; hear it? “Caesar—ea” This was Rome central. Regiments of Italians probably marched nearby as Peter rode into town. Herod himself had a retreat here. The smell of pasta and fettuccine filled the air. The aroma of grilled pork, a stench to Jews, wafted across the streets.

Cornelius had called together all his relatives. As Peter approached, the Centurion ran to greet him, kneeling in respect. Peter entered the home and said, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” (Acts 10:28)peter vision

Cornelius describes the visitation of the angel, with instructions to call for Peter. They are ready to listen. And Peter lifts up the hood to unveil the theological engine of the mission of God. “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:34-35)

Peter shares the message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and granting of eternal life. The stamp of approval on this colossal new development comes with a thud — the Holy Spirit falls on them all. Peter concludes this is the same Spirit that had come upon the Jews not many months earlier, and baptizes them all in water.

What is the lesson here? To align the calling of our church with God’s mission, we must break the rules that protect our comfortable enclave. AND, we must be willing to be criticized by the powerful people who haven’t seen the vision.

That brings up back to where we began: on Pause.

The early church is scattering and on the move, but at a standstill in the mission of God—Jews speaking only to Jews. Word arrives that Peter, our senior pastor!, has gone to the home of a Roman centurion! And the Holy Spirit has been given to the Gentiles. The remaining elders in Jerusalem, when they hear this, drew silent, and glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” (Acts 11:18).

So a few folks from Cyprus—islanders, that’s what you’d expect from them– and a few brothers from Cyrene – Africans, that explains it—they came into Greeksville and spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.

And the church got off Pause…

and Played.

You know what is fascinating? God has brought Romans and Hellenists right into your town! Many of them have never heard an explanation of who Jesus is. Many have never gotten to know a Jesus-follower. Many international students, many foreign-born engineers, medical practitioners, have never been invited into the home of an American. They’re cautious… but curious. And many of them have been called by God into His forever family.

Who will invite them home for a cup of tea?
Who will explain an English word, or show how a chocolate chip cookie is made?
Who will ask them how they are doing?
Who will take them to a ball game or a bowling alley, or a museum?
Who will offer to take them to their appointment or pick them up at the airport?

Those who see a new vision.
Those who take difficult steps in a risky direction
And those who break the rules that protect a comfortable enclave.
Those who push play, no matter the cost.

photocredit:  myocn.net



Please share

A church that only the Spirit could imagine

Interesting thing about the elder board at Antioch church: it was ethnically and economically diverse.

  • Barnabas; (Acts 4:36) “son of encouragement”; priestly tribe,  Cyprus; landowner
  • Simeon who was called Niger; Jewish name, apparently with nickname (Latin) meaning “black.” Child of mixed marriage? (Jewish father, African mother?)
  • Lucius of Cyrene; Roman name (upbringing) from city in Libya (No.African)
  • Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch; possibly foster-brother; Jewish name; associated with a despised, despotic ruling family; exposed to wealth.
  • Saul; well educated Jewish lawyer. Vicious persecutor of the church; excellent teacher

In other words, the Antioch church became a church that only the Spirit of God could have imagined!  For the whole story and what we can learn from it, click here.

Please share

Intercultural unity, good for church health

Intercultural unity — when people of different cultures fellowship deeply together in unity — is good for the health of the Christian community. Let me share some of my thinking:

  • Intercultural unity can expose unhealthy ways in which our culture can become one and the same with our faith — as if there is no other valid way of worship that pleases God other than our way.
  • Intercultural unity can expose ethnocentrism, a cultural arrogance that assumes our way is the right way.
  • Intercultural unity can expose syncretism, the merging of absolute truth with optional cultural practices.

This is what the Jerusalem Council (in Acts 15) accomplished. The Jewish leaders, under direction of the Holy Spirit an at the uncomfortable assistance of those ministering to Gentiles, realized that their customs were not essential for pleasing God.

When you think of all that the Jewish leaders laid down at the foot of the cross, and what little they retained, you have to admire their sacrificial obedience. But what a benefit for the kingdom of God! Their gracious conclusion (Acts 15:28-29) unleashed exponential growth among the Gentiles for centuries to come.

jerusalem councilBut the tipping point had to come. The weight of Gentile acceptance of the gospel had to, at some point, overpower culturally Jewish dominance of the Way. So it was to their credit that the pillars of the Jerusalem church saw the inevitability of change and cooperated with the Spirit’s new wine skins.

Such changes have continually happened ever since, and in our day the rising tide of immigration is pressuring the dominant church to yield. If leaders will take a lesson from Peter and James, we will see what the Spirit is doing in our generation, one in which no ethnic group will hold a majority, one in which people from all nations now call the U.S. home.festival

Like the founding Jewish apostles, we can view this as an opportunity to be seized. Rather than retrenching in the fortress of cultural Christianity, we can take an honest look at our syncretism and take gradual but courageous steps to pare down the things that are “essential” and welcome into the fold a broad spectrum of expressions of following Jesus.





Please share