There’s been a lot of debate recently over the building of an Islamic Mosque and community center just two blocks away from ground Zero in New York. The issue took on more steam this past weekend as President Obama endorsed the group’s constitutional right to construct the building. But then on Saturday, the President was reported as saying that while he upholds that “Muslims have that right, that doesn’t mean he believes it is the right thing for them to do.” There sure are a number of ways to look at this. I understand and have felt the same knee jerk reaction of many who have pointed out that the men who flew those planes into the Twin Towers in New York were led by a strict inner interpretation of the Qur’an (Koran). So the initial thought of a group of Muslims meeting yards away from where such a tragic event happened can cause one to wince. But when the dust clears and the heart beat slows down, I believe the group in question ought to be allowed to carry on with their plans. But my main reason for such a position may not be easy to see at first. Here’s what I’m thinking.
I love the languages. I love the diversity. I love the Kingdom of Heaven. One of the things that really fascinate me about the Kingdom of Heaven is that it is made up of folks from all over the world and of every ethnic, race, economic, and social class. This was certainly true of the church that Debi and I planted in Northern California back in 04. I still remember getting together with believers from the former Soviet Union and lifting up prayers in English, Russian, and Kazak. This was the picture we had today at our weekly prayer meeting at The Crossings. We have begun some initial conversations with a Hispanic church plant in our area about a potential partnership and some of those folks came today. We had a great time. From The Corssings, we had people from America, (Texas), Trinidad, and Honduras. We had representatives from El Salvador and Guatemala from the Hispanic church plant. Though from different nationalities, we were all the same at the throne of Christ worshiping together and interceding together. It all reminds me of what John witnessed 2000 years ago as recorded in the Book of Revelation, 7:9-10
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
Wow, that’s amazing. It speaks again that the hope for unity in the world is not the UN, but the love to Christ. Yup, I really do love the Kingdom. “Slava Boga!”
I’ve always said that I could eat Tex-Mex food two or three times a week and I think that’s probably true. But tonight was a dinner full of memories as we got together with some friends in North Houston for Borscht and Blinchiki. Our chef, Oksana, is from Uzbekistan which used to be part of the Soviet Union. So it was a lot of fun trying to remember our Russian and the names of the great dishes we had while living in Moscow back in the mid 90s. I love trying foods from all over the world. Probably the worst thing I’ve ever eaten was on a college internship in Chile back in 88 and I’d say that the best food I’ve ever had was in Nagaland, India. But I think one of the greatest parts of these fun food festivities is not just the palate, but the friendships, culture, and Kingdom experiences that come along with them. Cultural because we are all different and I love that. But from the Kingdom standpoint, it is a reminder that the Kingdom of Heaven is not an American thing, but a God thing. The real Kingdom of God, or Heaven, is something that Jesus said is within us. It stretches all over the world and across time. It will continue to expand in the hearts and minds of God’s children until Christ comes back. So in a very real sense, the Kingdom is all over the world and transcends all cultures. Having grown up in Texas, you could say that Tex-Mex really is a “national” or cultural reality for me. But because the Kingdom of God is so big, there is really no one “national food” for Kingdom citizens. But rather, it’s kind of a multi course banquet. Now THAT smells good. Fish Tacos anyone?
I came across an interesting article today highlighting a decision of the European Union to open up a “transparent and regular dialogue with churches, religious associations and secular groups.” The reason this caught my eye is that Europe, and especially France, is one of the most secular regions of the world. I have a heart for world evangelism and England and Europe have always been a part of that. It’s sad to remember how many of those countries in the EU once led the world in sharing the love of Christ. People like Hus, Luther, and Wesley stood and proclaimed the grace of Jesus Christ and lives were changed. But over the years Europe, more so than England, has gone to the extreme of total government led secularism and has pushed Christianity and any form of religious thought into the deepest corners of the closet. If anything, religion was a personal matter not to be discussed in public. Yet according the article, the political experts of the EU are beginning to see how much faith really intersects in the lives of people around the globe and how that even has ramifications in their own back yards. Apparently, September 11, 2001 is a date that stands out for the EU proponents of this measure as it “shattered a widespread belief that faith was a private matter due to wither away in modern societies.” For them, they understand that the spiritual drive behind the attacks in New York also fueled such events as the bombings in Madrid and London. So I generally agree with the assessment of the EU. A strong faith does affect society either for good or evil and I’m glad to see these folks recognizing this reality. But I believe the ultimate key for Europe is not more politically driven dialogue, but individual Christ followers fully living out their faith in their daily walk. There is nothing more transforming than the love of Christ being displayed in one of his children. Well I don’t live in the EU, at least not now anyway. But here are some things that I can do. What would you add?
-Pray for a spiritual awakening in the EU and England.
-Pray for the true Christ followers in the EU and England.
-Pray for the missionaries who are there in the EU and England.
-Help support those missionaries through our resources.
-Begin to dialogue ourselves with other people who don’t know Christ.
-Live out a Christ centered life where we are today.
One of my true heart passions is world evangelism. In tune with this, I’ve pasted below a recent post from one of my favorite blogs to keep up with. The guy’s name is Bob Roberts and he’s got a lot of experience and insight to consider. The link is at Glocal.net and the post is below. Enjoy.
To See a Transformed World – or NOT!
When we go into ministry it is driven by passion, love, vision, and determination to see God work in our lives and see radical transformation through Jesus Christ in our local ministries and throughout the world. Too often it ends in frustration, disappointment, and defeat. The problem is not our heart or desire or even willingness – it’s our paradigm and understanding of our world. If we would see transformation:
1. We need a clear understanding of what the Great Commission is and what it isn’t. In my upcoming book that will be out in a few months I deal with what the Great Commission is – and move it from religious preacher work to disciple society engagement. Our current western understanding of the Great Commission is limiting us in being able to be a part of things where the Gospel is going viral.
I’m amazed at how global life has become and what that all means for the Church and the Kingdom. One of the reasons why we planted a church in Nor. Cal and why we are investigating another plant in areas like North Central Dallas is because of the huge international make up of places like that. There are so many exciting things going on in the church international today that remind me of Revelation 7:9-12 where the apostle John saw a:
“great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
Can all this be a reality? Can people from every ethnic, cultural, and economic background come together? You bet they can. In fact, that was God’s design all along. That’s the way it will be in heaven. That is the way it is all over the world at the foot of the cross.
For those of us who live in places like Nor. Cal, LA, or even Dallas, we can experience that today if we drop our personal ideas of “church” and purposefully come together under the banner of Christ alone. We can realize this divine vision when we reach out in sometimes uncomfortable ways to those who are different than us with the love of Christ.
We can also be encouraged to know that we are part of a much larger family that gathers publically and in secret all over the world today in the unity of Jesus. That’s the Kingdom that I’m a part of.
I found this video clip several months ago and I’m pretty sure that Matt was not thinking Kingdom thoughts when he made it, but I sure was. Check it out and then ask yourself what you can do to help build the Kingdom of God international. Have fun.